I saw my brother (an EDIWTB reader) over the weekend, and he confessed to me that while he enjoys the blog, he doesn’t get many book suggestions from it. “I think it’s kind of aimed at women readers,” he told me.
I don’t disagree. Most EDIWTB subscribers are female (although I have no idea who else is out there reading), and honestly, I am drawn toward female writers and books about relationships, families, and other topics that I suspect are usually pursued more by women than men. I have, however, made an effort to include male writers — see recent posts on Bruce Wagner, Larry Watson, Kazuo Ishiguro — and today is no exception.
In the new novel, a 42-year-old doctor named Pete Barrington returns from California to his little home town in Mississippi. He started there as a poor farm boy, but brains, looks and football talent helped him advance to college, medical school and a good life out West. An adulterous affair with a patient ended that, and now he, his wife and their 15-year-old daughter are starting over back home. Yarbrough’s story blends elements we have seen in other novels — the small-town South, the football hero grown up, passions that reach back to high school, a little incest and a lot of extramarital sex, racial tensions, hypocrisy among the pious — but it all works because Yarbrough knows his characters so well, cares for them so deeply and writes of them in prose that is graceful, precise and packed with surprises.
Borne on a thematic construct of revenge, Yarbrough’s latest novel whisks his many fans back to the small Mississippi town of Loring, the home front during World War II. Here he peers behind contemporary curtains to assess the domestic conditions within. Pete Barrington grew up in Loring, but a sticky situation sent him off to California, where he went to medical school, got married, and had a daughter. Now he returns to Loring with his family and sets up a medical practice. Old wounds are consequently opened, to the point of spilt blood. In addition to revenge, this is also a tale of tested loyalties: between friends, spouses, children, and even the community as a whole. With a relentless sense of doom thickly building from page one, it is nevertheless difficult to anticipate exactly where the plotline is leading, which works well in a psychological novel with thriller overtones. Small-town ambience, with its conventions and crowdedness, its secrets and suspicions, is evoked with careful detail. Each character over whom a dark past looms is given both understanding and individuality.
Here is a post about The End of California from D.C. native author Porter Shreve’s website. Kind of cool: he has a playlist of Steve Yarbrough’s favorite mix CD on there. Here also is an interview with Yarbrough from the Southern Literary Review.
So, what do you think? Is this a guy book? Or is there no such thing?