The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

This is one dark book. I love that about it. In fact, it was much darker than I expected and that is not a bad thing. It lived up to what I expect when someone describes a Southern Gothic novel.

The characters are very dark and very violent. There is a returned World War II vet who falls for a beautiful waitress and settles in Knockemstiff, Ohio. He is kind of a crazy wilderness lay preacher who attempts to pray away his wife’s cancer. Fair warning to sensitive readers, some of his worship involves animal sacrifice that is quite graphic.

There are two crazy travelling preachers who are every stereotype of “Deliverance” characters that you can think of – including the squeal little piggy variety. Those that have read the book or seen the movie will understand.

My favorite creepy couple was Carl and Sandy. Every year they take a two to four week sojourn to different parts of the country and embark on a serial killing spree. It involves sex, photography and death.

What is most interesting is that at different points in the book, all of these disparate stories converge. There were times that I was wondering where this was all headed and then the characters would meet. It made sense when it happened but one thing I loved about that was the author never felt the need to speed the story towards these meetings.

In that sense, the story unfolds at a nice, slow, southern pace. And if I am picturing this story as a color it would be very black with shades of gray and some white. Apparently there is another book called “Knockemstiff” by the same author. I assume that it continues or precedes this one and that it is populated by some of the same characters.

I definitely felt like there was more to say in the story. Even the peripheral characters had very fascinating glimpses that made me want to know more. This was a great bargain and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to other readers.

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