296. Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell

Give Us a Kiss by Daniel Woodrell. Foreword by Pinckney Benedict.

Rating: (3.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1996, 2012 Back Bay Books/Little, Brown & Co., 194 pgs

Age: 18+

""My imagination is always skulking about in a wrong place." And now Doyle Redmond, thirty-five-year-old nowhere writer, has crossed the line between imagination and real live trouble. On the lam in his soon-to-be ex-wife's Volvo, he's running a family errand back in his boyhood home of West Table, Missouri--the heart of the red-dirt Ozarks. The law wants his big brother, Smoke, on a felony warrant, and Doyle's supposed to talk him into giving up. But Smoke is hunkered down in the hills with his partner, Big Annie, and her nineteen-year-old daughter, Niagra, making other plans: they're about to harvest a profitable patch of homegrown marijuana.

Doyle takes just one look at Niagra's flattering red boots before joining his brother's scheme. Of course it means dealing with the law and maybe worse--the Dollys. A legendary clan of largely criminal persuasion, the Dollys have been feuding with the Redmonds for generations. Now they want a piece of Smoke's cash crop, even if it means killing to get it. Doyle is fast realizing that yes, you can always put the country back in the boy...but sometimes that's not smart."

Borrowed a copy from the library through Inter-Library Loan.

With the reading of this book, I have now completed Daniel Woodrell's backlist of novels. This is my least favourite of his books. Even though Woodrell has written several different genres and no two of his books ever follow a template, I found the narrator of Give Us a Kiss different than his other books and just couldn't get as comfortable with him. It's not that I didn't like him, and I don't have to like characters to like a book, but Doyle Redmond is a homegrown Ozarks inhabitant who had the intellect to leave and get educated but not enough intellect to stay away and not get involved in the Ozark underworld of drugs, sex and murder. He acted low-born and talked higher-born than seemed natural and that's what rubbed me wrong with him. This is how Doyle is supposed to come across though, so it works, but Woodrell's other books, especially the Ozark novels have much better narrators. Another thing that is different about this book from the others is that it has a happy ending ... well, comparatively speaking, and I actually found that and the actual ending disappointing. There is a good story in here; it is a violent, dark, gritty, country noir crime; with a bit of explicit sex not found in Woodrell's other work either. Other than Doyle, I liked all the other characters, even those I wouldn't want to know in real life. Smoke, Big Annie and Niagra are all remarkable persons populating Woodrell's Ozarks. This particular edition also includes a wonderful essay by the author entitled "How Much of the Ozarks Is In Me?" that ends the novel on a perfect note.

Now that I've read Woorell's backlist I'm left with two more books to read.  Fortunately, he has just published a new book and I'll be reading that next month. (Oct.)  He also has a collection of short stories which I purchased a little while ago and I'll be reading that as my next ss collection.


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