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Steve Cushman, who spent many years in Florida, received his M.A. from Hollins University and his M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His fiction has appeared in the North American Review, 100% Pure Florida Fiction, and the Raleigh News and Observer. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Portisville by Steve Cushman is a gripping story of betrayal, murder, and hidden secrets. Haunted by the murder of his mother, and a mysterious phone call from the father who has not spoken to him in years, one man must revisit the hidden horrors of his childhood and painfully uncover a terrible truth before it destroys him, what is left of his family, and perhaps others caught in its wake as well. A serious, small-town novel brimming with gut-wrenching pathos that irresistibly compels the reader to turn the pages.
I finished "Portisville" about two weeks ago and have been thinking about the book since. Now that I've mostly moved into our new house, I finally have time to review Steve Cushman's debut novel.
Let's cut to the chase - I loved reading this book.
Cushman tracks the relationships of two fathers and sons: Jimmy Wills and his father, Truman, and Darren Webster and his son, Bobby. Jimmy, a house painter living in North Carolina, has been estranged from Truman since being sent to live with an aunt after his mother's murder. Bobby has been rebelling against Darren since his mother left her drug-dealing husband. Ostensibly, this is a book about fathers and sons, but it's really about mothers and sons, and the lifetime pull that formative relation has on a boy's or man's life. Out of the blue, Jimmy receives a call from Truman ordering his son to drive back to Portisville, Fla., and kill him. Is it to end Truman's suffering from terminal cancer or is it to settle the death of Dot Wills, a crime for which Truman was tried and acquitted. After a life of small-time drug deals, Darren pulls up stakes and relocates Bobby away from where his mother has moved, destroying bobby's unrealistic hope that his mother will return to them. The two fathers and their sons converge in a satisfying ending.
Portisville is rich in detail: descriptions of land and buildings, weather and characters both major and minor. The dialogue is naturalistic (with a few exceptions regarding Bobby), relationships, motivations, and leisurely action are wholly realistic. This is a portrait of people in the new South, trying to get by, some legally, some not; love, death, personal growth and stagnation.
Again, I loved reading this book and have enjoyed thinking about it since. I highly recommend "Portisville."
I couldn't even finish this book because I was so disgusted by the constant detailed references to bodily functions, the excessive use of profanity, the casual references to drinking and driving (as though nothing is wrong with that, totally normal and acceptable thing to do), detailed descriptions of women's anatomy, and the absolute lack of any sympathetic characters. I didn't like a single character in the book and couldn't care less what happens to them. I really don't understand all of the glowing reviews on here. I feel like those people read a different book than I did because this was really just terrible.
I'm not sure what I think of this book. I know that I couldn't stop reading it, that the story was that compelling, but I find myself wondering, What was the point? For people who love reading, that is the point, the only one that matters, but I am a mother and have responsibilities and I hate thinking I have spent hours of my life on something pointless.
The story is about Jimmy Wills, a grown man who is suddenly forced to re-live his past with a long-lost mother when his estranged father calls him home to his small home town with an outrageous request to kill him. Dad, acquitted of murdering mom years ago but convicted of another crime which led to hard time, is now suffering from terminal cancer and wants to be put out of his misery by his own son's hand but Jimmy is not only appalled by this, he doesn't even really want to go back home to Portisville, to the place where he grew up but lost his mother.
At the same time, the sheriff is re-visiting the Wills murder as a missing persons case unfolds which has some similarities to the old, unsolved Wills murder. Sheriff Davis is forced to again doubt the innocence of his lifelong fried Truman Wills in the murder of Truman's wife.
Meanwhile, Bobby, a boy whose life parallels Jimmy in some ways, is desperate to see his mom again, now that his drug-dealing dad and her have split. This desperation, along with Jimmy's heartache over his own mother, drew me in as I am a new mom myself. However- without revealing the truth of the Wills murder here- I was left wondering at one point if Jimmy's dad would turn out to be the killer after all and if the reason would be his having found out about Jimmy's inappropriate relationship with his mother. This is after a memory of Jimmy's is described which made me view Jimmy as the victim of borderline sexual abuse.
The reason the book felt pointless was that it didn't resolve things satisfactorily, though reading it was good throughout. It was like watching the series "LOST" which I watched in marathon sessions while pregnant- it was very good while you watched it but there were a lot of loose ends and the ending was terrible and made me feel I'd wasted a lot of precious time on it.
It depends on whether you feel that reading a good story is valuable enough for you or having a point to it all is the only way you'd spend time on something like a good book or good TV show that you will value Portisville.
I liked this book quite a bit. It's about a father/son relationship gone awry and a son's feelings of obligation to his dying father he doesn't like very much. The father doesn't seem to care much for his son either. It's an interesting book with an odd underlying story that doesn't really go anywhere ( a college girl has been murdered near Portisville and the timing coincides with the son's visit ). This is a book written with heart, and a book that doesn't sugar-coat or have a happy ending where everything is all neat-and-tidy at the end. Worth a read!
I started reading Portisville on my Kindle last night at bedtime..I really shouldn't of done that, as I got "caught up" in the story and couldn't quit until the very last word! Portisville is a mystery that kept me guessing up until the very end!
The ending didn't seem complete, wish it had tied up a few loose threads before driving off into the sunset, but well worth the lose of sleep!