Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock

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Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock

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Buy Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ekaterina Rodyunina
Reviewed by Ekaterina Rodyunina
Summary: A book of short stories, all of them interconnected through the characters, though one only gets to realize it later, towards the end. A dark book, a hopeless book, a scary book in it's claim for reality, for hidden secrets in the life we lead and for the life we'd rather not know about. Fictional, however placed in setting of an existing American town, Knockemstiff. Trust me, not a place for a family vacation.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099520979

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Welcome to Knockemstiff, a quiet little town in Ohio, USA. Wait, I take it back. You are not welcome. Strangers do not come to Knockemstiff. Unless you are lost of course, like that Californian photographer woman, who took random pictures and could not believe the town was for real: so poor, so lost, so abandoned. Come to think of it, the people of Knockemstiff would be more than happy to leave the place themselves. It is just that they never have the chance, or never quite make it.

So they continue to live their normal lives, alas, the lives where you get to see a brother and sister screwing each other in the river (killing them seems like a logical move at the time for the character). Oh, and not to forget a guy who steals drugs to get out of Knockemstiff and gets so high on the way out that he eats a chicken raw, guts and all. And two boys who are so desperate to leave the place that they end up selling themselves to a hot dog vendor for some change.

Clearly, the book is devatstaingly unpleasant and discomforting. I am not a sensitive person but a few times while reading it, I found myself dying to take a shower and just wash off the dirt pouring from the pages.

Funny thing is though, despite being so way out of anyone's evening read, this book manages to suck you in, and by the middle you still shrug reading, but it all makes sense, in a weird way. No wonder Chuck Palahniuk recommends it, him and Donald Ray Pollock share the ability to get the reader involved in (let's face it) rather sick little worlds.

The book is made of short stories, all of them interconnected through the characters, though one only gets to realize it later, towards the end. It is a dark book, a hopeless book, a scary book in it's claim for reality, for hidden secrets in the life we lead and for the life we'd rather not know about. However desperate and sad it is, somehow it gives one hope. Hope that even in horrid circumstances human beings still aim for the same simple things, and that regardless of these circumstances, we just live. Live the best way we can, and just try to fill in the time before we die.

It is a deeply disturbing read, so be prepared. The style is very blunt and down-to-earth, not even a tiny obnoxious detail omitted. Not recommended for pregnant women and a must-read for future social workers.

Thanks a lot to Harvill Secker for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If you are into dark but tantalizing stories, try our review of Chuck Palahniuk's Rant: The Oral History of Buster Casey.

Buy Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock at Amazon.com.

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