- Reviewed by Charis Scott-Holm
- Published on July 21st, 2011 at 4:02p.m.
In a singular moment of violence, the path of Loyal Blood's life changes forever, as he runs from his sinful past and tries like so many others to find solace and livelihood in the American West.
After accidentally (or so it seems...) killing his girlfriend Billy, Loyal runs away from his life and home on a Vermont farm and tries to make a new life for himself far away, and in his shame vows never to return to the farm or see his family ever again.
Little does he know of the downfall which has hit his family- suicide, jail, ruin and disappearance all plague the Blood family in his absence.
His only contact with them is through postcards sent with no return address, the book is epic in scale and explores the lives and deaths of the family from 1944 to the 1980s.
A book essentially about fate- and about life choices- and outcomes- we see Loyal running but never finding peace, a character forever haunted by his past- and you become embroiled in his lonely struggle and the bad luck he entails.
As if he is cursed by the death of Billy- he goes from one downfall to another- leaving the reader with a serious sense of despair. I would have given anything to see a happy ending for Loyal.
And this is where Proulx shows a real masterful talent for the deception of the reader- even though we know that Loyal raped and killed his girlfriend- and should therefore be a villain in the book- his sad, lonely, despairing existence seems unwarranted and I was full of regret for him- wishing he had never done what he did all those years ago.
Not a life affirming book, it's fair to say. Definitely not one to be labelled under 'feel good' fiction, though it contains so much beauty in the tenderness of feeling between some of the characters and in the beautiful landscapes that Proulx has created, and has some real warm moments.
Even through the sadness I'd still recommend this book, as long as you are under no allusions that its about happy endings then it is definitely a worthwhile and rewarding read.