Friday, June 22, 2018

The Weight of This World by David Joy

Reviewed by Kristin

What do you do when you have no place to go, nothing to change your circumstances, when the weight of the world is pressing down upon you?  Aiden McCall and Thad Broom are friends in their early 20s, living in Little Canada, wedged into the hardscrabble hills of western North Carolina.  Thad tried to escape, enlisting in the military and returning from Afghanistan with even more invisible scars than he had before.  Aiden never ventured far beyond their tiny mountain community, but oh, how he would love to stretch his horizons just as far as Asheville.

When Aiden and Thad witness the accidental shooting of their drug dealer (while not so coincidentally high on crystal meth) they panic, grabbing all the cash and drugs they can carry.  Aiden thinks that wad of bills may be their ticket to a better life, but Thad can only see the immediate gratification of what he can snort, smoke, or spend.

This was not an easy book to read.

I wanted to read it because I had heard David Joy compared to Ron Rash and Wiley Cash, fellow Appalachian authors.  After about fifty pages, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading.  The darkness and desperation of these characters came pouring off the pages.  I didn’t identify with the drug culture; the bad decisions were difficult to behold.  However, I am glad that I continued.  The writing is raw and gritty, but depicts real people with hopes and dreams of a better life.

Joy’s prose is eloquent as he shows his readers the depths of despair endured by his characters.  It’s not pretty, but it is beautiful.  Aiden tries to hold onto hope while Thad continues spiraling downward.  A story of abuse, friendship, family, and revenge, The Weight of This World continued to keep me breathless.  Hoping that one or both of them would escape the forces holding them down, I kept reading to learn the fates of Aiden and Thad.  The twists and turns rivaled those of a mountain road, as the friends struggled to find their paths.

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