For readers who want another opinion:
I just finished reading BLACK RIVER and I disagree. This book has much more to offer than your review suggests.
Many people find it difficult to speak about how they feel, especially when their emotions are intense. Having known some of those people, one man in particular, I thought Wesley's character was an accurate portrayal of the way someone like him would respond to the situations and people he encountered. Wesley grew up in a small town where most of the fathers worked at the prison and most of their sons grew up to do the same. He was not a complicated man. He lived for two things: his family and his music. This is not a character who would have an "engaging" inner life.
I was impressed by the subtle ways Hulse wrote small moments into the story. Such as Wesley's comment after his wife asked him if it was hard for him to shoot an injured deer. All he said was, "It was the right thing." Those five words opened a door in my mind that allowed so much about his character to fall into place. And I thought the moment was perfectly timed, as many moments were in this novel.
Since I have been a musician all my life, I understand what it would mean to man like Wesley to lose that voice by losing most of his ability to use his hands. Music was the one graceful way he had to express himself gracefully in the world. Now he has frustration and chronic pain. And it's not likely he only experiences those only once in a while. You say, "ad nauseum." I say how many times do you suppose he would think about the torturous, violent destruction of his hands? Probably every time he felt pain -- which was nearly every moment of every day and night -- or when he could not to do something as simple as pull the ring top off a can of orange juice for his dying wife. And then there was the moment when he couldn't grant her dying wish. To me, that is not "ad nuseum." That is bringing a fictional character to life by giving him realistic thoughts and feelings.
As you suggested, there could have been more of Dennis in the story. But, quite obviously, in BLACK RIVER, that story is not over. Maybe he will have the starring role in S. M. Hulse's next book, which I look forward to reading.
Missoula News/Independent Publishing |
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