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Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2011
I've read this book 3 times from front to back. It's weird, dark, and disturbing - and hilarious. It's a strange combination that makes it absolutely amazing. Invest a mere few dollars into buying this book - it's a unique trip.
5.0 out of 5 starsUnconventional mystery with beautiful language
Reviewed in the United States on March 14, 2014
The author of this book has an MFA in poetry and you can tell from the beautiful language he uses in constructing sentences and the artistic tangents he takes to tell little pictures stories of detail that have little to nothing to do with the plot of this story. I can see where these tangents might drive some readers nuts but for me they really helped me to create a picture of the places and people that populate the story. The plot of the book is that Benny, who works climbing towers to change lightbulbs, paint or secure guide wires, sees from his perch a girl set up a tripod and video camera and walk into a river, to her death. She leaves behind a business card and a set of video tapes and through them Benny gets an introduction to the drowned girl's life. Aside from the plot, I think this book is an exploration of why people do the things they do, even when they know they are wrong or will hurt someone. I liked that the author didn't strive too hard to make the characters likeable, but just set forth all of their actions, good and bad, and let you evaluate their character. The book is set in a southern town populated by oddball characters, but all of the details are skewed just enough to keep the town and its residents from becoming caricatures. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates beautiful language or who likes an unconventional mystery.
Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2010
This is a fantastic book about the effects of secrets on a persons life. When Benny Poteat witnesses a girl drown herself, he finds the video tapes and camera that she left behind. After an embarassing incident involving a stubbed toe and a chocolate penis he can't bring himself to report the death.
To find out more about the girl who died he starts watching the tapes. He also meets and starts dating her midget sister. the book shifts effortlessly from moments of extreme darkness to great comedy (I laughed out loud when the dog chose the wrong moment to vomit up Becky's knickers).
Benny is a strangely sympathetic central character despite his increasingly unforgivable behaviour. He certainly isn't likable but even his most unlikely actions seem reasonable when we look through his eyes. His voyeurism turns to outright cruelty by the end of the book as a side-effect of keeping the secret for so long.
I cannot recommend this book enough. The prose style is hypnotic, the characters well drawn, sympathetic and believable, the dialogue crisp and frequently very funny, and the story flows with the force of the river the girl drowns herself in in chapter one.
There is some detail which isn't for the squeamish but I ain't squeamish. An easy 5 stars
Reviewed in the United States on November 22, 2004
From the top of a watertower, Benny Poteat sees something he isn't suppose to see-a beautiful young woman, setting up a video camera, taking off her clothes, and then calmly walking into the water to drown. Benny nervously climbs down the tower making his way to the riverbank where it happened, knowing full well that it is too late to save her. He gathers her clothes, her video camera, and the video tapes left in her bag, tosses them into his pickup truck and rushes home dazed and frightened as though he had somehow caused her death. He turns one question over and over in his mind, "What do you do after watching someone die?"
He doesn't go to the police, instead he keeps what he saw to himself. Paralyzed by a need to be close to the drowned girl he watches the video tapes she purposely left behind. Then he searches and finds the drowned girl's sister, Becky Hinkey. Yet, rather than telling Becky what he saw, he starts dating her. He holds her while she cries over her missing sister. He considers telling her what he saw. But then he wonders--has too much time past? Would it seem suspicious? Would it look as though he had something to do with it? His frustration builds, he wishes he had gone to the police, but he didn't and now he doesn't know what to do. He considers telling Jeeter, his best friend, "One time, when they were both drunk, Benny asked Jeeter if he believed in angels. `Shut-up, Benny.' That was the closest Benny ever came to talking about it."
Sherrill's humor is steeped in southern literary tradition with its dark, grotesque quality. He carefully weaves the lives of his oddball characters to create a most believable and compelling story. Becky Hinkey, while the most normal of all the characters, is a midget. Jeeter is most at home on a motorcycle and in a flea market. He prefers spending his energies on rigging up a vibrating passenger seat on his motorcycle to arouse his female passengers. And then there's Doodle and Dink. Doodle, Benny's neighbor and a waitress at the Nub & Honey where he sometimes works. Dink, a friend with serious issues of his own. We laugh and sympathize with the midget stuffed in the giant pumpkin; we laugh and feel ill from the dog "sicking up" a pair of panties; we laugh and sympathize for Jeeter's date, who is deeply bruised by his vibrating seat device.
Like the mischievous boy in second grade who always got away with shooting spitballs because he could charm the socks off the teacher, Sherrill's poetic style and ear for rhythm lets him get away with telling us anything he wants.