Monday, April 14, 2014

Above All Men by Eric Shonkwiler

Life is different in America after the wars.  Infrastructures fell and were not able to be replaced.  For example, when a hurricane knocks out oil refineries there is no more gasoline after what is available is used up.  The country reverts to life as it was a hundred years ago, in the 1930's, a more rural, slow life. 

David Parrish is a war veteran who has returned home.  He tries to maintain a family life with his wife Helene and their son, Samuel.  It eats at him that Samuel, who is very bright, will never know life as he did, with all the technological advances that brought the world to anyone's doorstep.  Instead, they farm as best they can, rediscovering the old methods of intensive farming that used to be the norm.   There are rumors about scavengers who roam aimlessly, trying to steal what they can regardless of who it belongs to.

David does what he can to help those around him.  This sometimes creates tension with Helene, but it is the only way he knows to live.  If someone needs help with a roof or fields, David is there.  He takes in a family to help on the farm, who were in danger of starvation, and finds a true friend in the father.

Then, everything changes.  A child in the community is murdered, gunned down for no reason.  People draw back into their own enclaves, fearful of those around them.  David is determined to discover who would do such a horrendous act, and bring those responsible to justice.

Eric Shonkwiler received his MFA from The University of California Riverside.  His work has appeared in publications such as The Los Angles Review Of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack Magazine and Midwestern Gothic.  This is his debut novel and the writing is so strong and clear that its power cannot be denied.  The book questions what a man should do to save his family, and how far we should go to be good neighbors.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and is a strong contender for the best book I've read this year.  Eric Shonkiwiler is an author to watch.

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