NPR Choice pageA brutal tale full of violence, lust, and broken lives, The Heavenly Table belongs to the darkest strain of ghostless American Gothic literature but has been filtered through the nonchalant callousness and deadpan humor of the best Westerns in a way that makes the narrative share DNA with authors as diverse as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Joe Lansdale. The Heavenly Table takes place in and mainly revolves around the three Jewett brothers. After the death of their father due to a parasitic worm acquired by eating the flesh of a diseased hog, the three brothers decide to leave their miserable life of poverty and subordination behind and go on a crime spree with plans of robbing a bank and disappearing into Canada with the bounty. However, more than criminals, the Jewett brothers are country boys whose life experiences are mostly limited to backbreaking work done for almost nothing and listening to their father speak of the afterlife. Cane, the eldest, is their intellectual leader and the only literate brother. The middle brother, Cob, is a childish ignoramus who spends most of his time thinking about food.
Crystal City Entertainment Lands Rights To ‘The Heavenly Table’ Novel By Donald Ray Pollock
All is not easy, least of all for the famished, and it is distinctly refreshing to read contemporary American fiction that concerns itself with such a fundamental problem of existence, far beyond the closed loops of affluent friends cloistered in the same old corners of urban America. But more on that in a moment. That is, until he drops dead behind a bush mid-bowel-movement. Ellsworth, dim and sweet, with a weakness for hooch, is determined to find the boy and return him to the righteous road. Inevitably, the Jewett Gang, seeking to lay low for a while, ends up at the Fiddler farm.
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Set in , The Heavenly Table is a wide-ranging story that centers on the impending death of one way of life and the forthcoming birth of something new and uncertain for an America stepping fitfully into the 20th century. Perhaps the tone might best be summarized by one of the principle characters, Ellsworth, a sad sack farmer in southern Ohio who struggles with his past, his good-for-nothing son, and a wife who has long since lost her passion for life:. As mentioned previously, this book feels both timely and timeless. Many of the characters encountered are having a hard go adjusting to changing times, not unlike a number of Americans today, especially those of the white and rural sort. Contemporary sad stories of the massive spike in suicides and painkiller addiction among this demographic feel as if they begin not just with the Great Recession but at The Heavenly Table , too, as these characters, feeling left behind, stumble drunkenly in their listless lives. More importantly is how Pollock contrasts the despair and out of reach promise of the times with older, far more human problems that, no matter the era, never fully recede into the background. Each character hungers for something that they can never fully grab.