Thursday, December 22, 2011

So Far Gone

So Far Gone, by Paul Cody, ended well. The author pulled it off, executing (oh dear, no pun intended) a beautiful ending, I thought. The protagonist of the tale, Jack Connor, will be the first person in decades to be put to death in Massachusetts, having murdered his parents and grandmother. We don't see a court case—this isn't that kind of book. Instead, we get Jack's interactions with the priest who visits him, repeated flashbacks to his early childhood (though out of chronological sequence) and later years living his parents, and the accounts of "witnesses" who contribute outsiders' perspectives on Jack and what he's done.

There's an enormous amount of repetition in the prose, and I think several chapters could have been tightened considerably with no loss. Halfway through, I didn't have any sense of the book's momentum, but then events begin to link more tightly and the noose of the narrative tightens. It's a marvelous book that doesn't settle for the standard steps one might expect to see in such a story. Cody generates sympathy for Jack by having us live through his hellish childhood. At first, I think the grandmother is overplayed, demonic, but later we get a better sense of the wildness of her moods, and eventually we sympathize with everyone in this horribly wounded family, and Cody does a nice job building that sympathy in careful stages. It's a terribly sad book, but there are redemptive and humane cracks of light showing around the sealed cellar door at its heart.

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