book review: Knockemstiff


by Donald Ray Pollock

    Well written series of stark and disturbing fictional stories about people in the real world southern Ohio Appalachian town of Knockemstiff. Most of these characters are warped due to poverty, drug & alcohol abuse as well as family abuse, and as such, make horrible decisions which have lasting consequences.  Yet raw humor frequently bursts from this grim stew of depravity and self-inflicted chaos.

    Being personally very familiar with the area, the place descriptions are spot-on, as are the people and their trials and tribulations. The stories cover a period of about fifteen to twenty years, and many of the characters reappear in other stories, only from a different perspective of place and time.

    The narratives and pacing are so well executed and compelling that reading this book is akin to watching a car wreck - you really do not want to watch, but your baser instincts take over and you just cannot take your eyes away. But be advised, these people and their tales are not for the faint of heart.

Note: this review was originally published on my page on February 23, 2022

Post Script:

    Like the air of a greasy diner, this book stuck to me for days after reading it. That is the sign of a book which has made an impact. In fact, it caused me to take a slow drive past all the shrines I could find from the book - starting with the town itself, which does appear on maps, but has no signs to demarcate a beginning or end. The place has had a slight influx of new residents, but the domiciles of the denizens portrayed in the book still exist in scattered areas. The Crispy Creme donut shop in Chillicothe (called Meade in the book ) was doing a booming business on Sunday morning. The pilgrimage satisfied some need to experience the place, even if only vicariously.
    "Hitting the Road Without a Map," touches on some of the themes and areas mentioned in "Knockemstiff."  However, my book is from the life perspective after the chaos ends in recovery, and we leave these 
reptilian life-choices behind.  


Popular Posts