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The Heavenly Table: A Novel Hardcover – July 12, 2016
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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An Amazon Best Book of July 2016: There’s really nobody like Donald Ray Pollock. With a name that sounds like a serial killer’s and style to match, he came to the writing game late, publishing the grimly funny and occasionally shocking collection, Knockemstiff, on the windward side of his 50th birthday. The Devil All the Time, another dark ramble through backwoods Ohio, followed, this time expanding his grimy gothic into a fully realized novel. And with his latest, Pollock is neither slowing down nor pulling back. The Heavenly Table splits the tale between two camps: On one side are Cane, Cobb, and Chimney, three brothers of varying dimness suddenly turned loose--at the death of their pious father--to fulfill their kindred potential for violence and larceny. On the other are Ellsworth and Eula Fiddler, increasingly desperate to maintain their farm after losing their "fortune" to a painfully obvious swindle. Suffice to say, Pollock winds up his doomed characters and sets them in motion in a pulpy, peripatetic trajectories in each other's direction. If you're the kind of reader who assesses a book by how well you like its characters, this book probably isn't for you; the best reason to read The Heavenly Table is to witness a writer constantly pushing the borders of imagination--and often propriety--while daring his readers to reassess their own.--Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
Praise for The Heavenly Table:
“Yes, The Heavenly Table is an old-fashioned yarn with a pretty predictable plot ─ but that’s the point, and as with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (an obvious influence), it is also a riotous satire that takes on our hopeless faith in modernity, along with our endless capacity for cruelty and absurd pretension…As much as we’d like to take comfort in the thought that all of this happened far away and a century ago, the fact is that Pollock’s funny, damning novel belongs, more than ever, to the country we live in now.”
— Alexander Maksik, New York Times Book Review
"Like a hybrid masterwork of Quentin Tarantino and Flannery O'Connor, Donald Ray Pollock's second novel, The Heavenly Table, is a comic Southern Gothic romp, hell-bent on making the reader squirm and laugh, often at the same time...The literary feast the novel offers becomes its own heavenly table..."
— William J. Cobb, Dallas Morning News
"There’s just no way to emerge unsullied and unscathed from Donald Ray Pollock’s Southern Gothic outlaw tale The Heavenly Table. Readers venturing into this grim territory, out beyond Cormac McCarthy and Patrick DeWitt, in the bizarre vicinity of Harry Crews’ manic intensity and the depraved noir of Jim Thompson, are apt to be startled and disturbed by what they witness, and not least of all by the sound of their own laughter...While some readers will feel that Pollock goes too far, others will find him very much in step with the times."
— David Wright, Seattle Times
“Pollock, the author of a previous novel, The Devil All The Time, and a collection of stories, has a rare gift of creating compelling characters that interact in a believable manner even in unbelievable circumstances. Heavenly, despite its dour premise, is a delight to read, absorbing and thought-provoking. As a historical novel, it reveals a world that is poised between the past and the present in meaningful ways.”
— Jim Ewing, Jackson Clarion-Ledger
“The Heavenly Table disgorges a smorgasbord of horrors yet this reviewer could not stop laughing. Agony can be hilarious. This book is Donald Ray Pollock’s masterpiece.”
— Vick Mickunas, Dayton Daily News
"In its bloody, violent, terrible collisions, The Heavenly Table feels like Blood Meridian if Cormac McCarthy had been born with a streak of black humor in him rather than just terseness and rage. Or like an early, freaky Tom Robbins novel if Robbins had been a mean-hearted sadist to whom death (ugly, swift and meaningless) had been the only natural conclusion to every paragraph. It is a book that leaves a sheen of filth on you when you read it. Which makes you taste the road dust and pig's feet (and worse), and see some things that you can never un-see.
But by the end of it — by the time the curling paths of the Fiddlers and the Jewetts and a dozen-odd other random characters have twined together — it has also turned a smart and complicated corner, asking (without ever really asking) who are the bad men and who are the good?"
— Jason Sheehan, Npr.org
One of Amazon.com's 10 Best Books of July
"Like Mr. Pollock’s 2011 “The Devil All the Time,” this is a jauntily amoral, amusingly macabre and somewhat juvenile entertainment—a beach read to enjoy on the shore of a lake of fire."
— Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"To read this book, you’ll need a strong stomach and may want a hot shower afterward, but you’ll never forget Pollard’s compelling characters." — Vicki Weisfeld, Christian Science Monitor
"The Heavenly Table succeeds in unifying a series of long and short narrative strands into a cohesive whole. Without sacrificing irony, [Pollock's] writing possesses a sincerity that has no time for late-postmodern gaming, and while remaining committed to realist conventions, his blue-collar sensibility distinguishes him from contemporary practitioners like Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides."
— Aaron Botwick,Open Letters Monthly
PW Picks: Book of the Week
"With furious prose and a Faulknerian eye for character, Pollock (The Devil All the Time) populates his second novel with dozens of memorable people who embody America’s headlong leap toward the future in the early 20th century...Pollock knocks it out of the park."
One of Vol. 1 Brooklyn's Best Books of July
"In a dark yet redeeming Gothic story set in the farmlands of Georgia and Ohio in the early 1900s, the three Jewett brothers set out on a cross-country journey of crime and violence. Little do they know that fate has arranged for their paths to cross with a farmer and his wife who will change their trajectory."
—The Sacramento Bee
"With furious prose and a Faulknerian eye for character, Pollock (The Devil All the Time) populates his second novel with dozens of memorable people who embody America’s headlong leap toward the future in the early 20th century.
In 1917, everything changes for the Jewett brothers—Cane, the capable one; Cob, the “slow” one; and Chimney, the hothead—upon their father’s sudden ascension to the “heavenly table.” With the exploits of their pulp fiction hero Bloody Bill Bucket fresh in their minds, the brothers embark on a violent journey north, escaping the backbreaking, fetid swamps on the Georgia-Alabama border and their lives under the thumb of sadistic landowner Maj. Thaddeus Tardweller. In southern Ohio, aging farmer Ellsworth Fiddler and his wife wait for their prodigal son to return home after a brief absence, during which he may or may not have enlisted in the United States Army to fight in Europe. Facing inexorable change—automobiles, airplanes, the machinery of war and agriculture—Ellsworth and others who frequent the local mercantile are “in agreement that the world now seemed head over heels in love with what tycoons and politicians kept referring to as ‘progress.’ ” But the Fiddlers cannot fathom how their lives will be transformed when the Jewetts ride into town on a crime spree that has made them the most wanted men in the country.
Set against the backdrop of America’s involvement in WWI and the rise of motorized and electrical technology, Pollock’s gothic, relentless imagination seduces readers into a fertile time in America’s history, exploring the chaos, wonder, violence, sexuality, and ambition of a nation on the cusp of modernity—and the outmoded notion of redemption in a world gone to hell."
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Donald Ray Pollock is a master-worker. This great novel flows like buttermilk, so smooth and entertaining that you won't be ready for the left hook it delivers to your heart or its sophisticated moral analysis of human life. Pollock has an omniscient eye like Gogol, taking in a vast scene while spinning tales within tales. Readers will love him, writers will study him.”
—Atticus Lish, author of Preparation for the Next Life
"The Heavenly Table is brilliant and unforgettable. In his trademark blend of humor and pathos, Donald Ray Pollock gives us a view into life's darkest corners, without ever forgetting there is a lighter side as well."
—Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust and The Son
"Think of The Heavenly Table as an antic, shambolic, guilty pleasure. Pollock’s prose is compulsively readable and often very funny."
"A darkly comic gorefest by a gifted writer."
“In a crowded room full of voices, Don Pollock’s voice is so distinct you’ll hear first and won’t ever, ever forget it. Nor will you want to. And the kicker is this: He somehow keeps getting better.”
—Tom Franklin, author of Poachers and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
“The Heavenly Table is the latest and strongest evidence that Donald Ray Pollock is one of the most talented and original writers at work today. With uniquely vivid and graceful prose he renders a tale destined to linger in the reader’s mind, a story by turns violent and darkly amusing, and always powerful. The novel is sure to be ranked among the year’s best.”
—Michael Koryta, New York Times-bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead
“The Heavenly Table is a ferociously gothic ballad about desperate folks with improbable dreams and scant means. It is potent and chimeric, dank, violent, swamped in tragedy—and funny as hell.”
—Daniel Woodrell, author of The Maid's Version and Winter's Bone
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Top Customer Reviews
Maybe its because I've lived in rural Appalachia my whole life around older people, but everyone of the characters seemed familiar to me. The dialogue is what really drove the story and kept me turning pages. Pollock does a great job of recreating the early 20th century as the common man would have experienced it without going overboard with overly descriptive writing. Nothing seems forced or contrived.
The violence in the book is frequent but not really as descriptive and drug out as some reviews had led me to believe. My only complaint with the violence is that several characters commit violent acts (some very violent) that doesn't really contribute anything to the story. For example, one character is revealed to have killed an old woman for about $30 and regrets it later, but it doesn't really have much to do with his later actions or the rest of the story.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wasn't overly sensitive or easily offended. I'm going to read Pollock's first novel next.
Pollock once again weaves a tale rich in detail. The book takes you back to 1917. The advent of the automobile, the army camp that springs up in rural Ohio to train men for WWI, the salons, whorehouses, farmlands, fields, etc.
This book is definitely worth your time if you enjoy Pollock's work as I do.
I don't want to give spoilers, so I hope this review is enough to convince you to read this book.