Southern Comfort

Reading in Threes: Southern Comfort

I grew up in the Midwest, but reading about the South always feels like going home. This time, Reading in Threes takes a walk into the dark corners of the American South.

Slim and The Beast by Samuél L. Barrantes
Published by Inkshares on February 3rd, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 200
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Slim, a former solider, and his best friend The Beast are heading for Milwaukee in hopes of jump-starting The Beast’s NBA career following his dismissal from UNC’s basketball team. Before they make it out of their small town, a fierce hurricane forces them into a small bar and closer to a man who has been following them both.

Though his novel is titled Slim and The Beast, Samuél L. Barrantes first introduces readers to Slim and Dykes, the Sergeant at Stoke Ridge Military Academy who eventually stalks the pair of friends through the hurricane. Each of the novel’s characters has a vastly different background, which allows the story to expand from its small focus in the bar. Though Dykes comes across as perfectly mythic, over exaggerated and almost larger than life through the eyes of Slim and The Beast, I struggled with the way his sexuality was similarly characterized. But as a whole, Slim and The Beast is an interesting intersection of controlled character study and wild ride unlike anything I’ve ever read.


where all light tends to go
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Published by Putnam on March 3rd, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
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Jacob McNeely has never lived up to the expectations of his ruthless father, who runs a meth ring in the area surrounding their small North Carolina town. Still, he drops out of school and throws himself into his father’s world in hopes of someday earning enough money to leave town with his first love, Maggie.

David Joy writes with the sense he’s intimately familiar with every corner, scratch and screen door he conjures up in his debut novel. Without reading like overworked dialect, a long drawl threads itself through the pages and knits together the characters’ well-worn relationships. Jacob’s internal conflict over the morality of his work gradually turns external and brings Where All Light Tends to Go to a close with an absolutely gut-wrenching conclusion.

“Those days alone were the first time I ever remember praying, and that’s the thing about folks who aren’t used to offering words to God. Praying’s easiest when you need something, selfish kinds of prayers, and that’s the type I prayed.”


My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
Published by Putnam on February 10th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
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In the summer of 1989, a Baton Rouge neighborhood is rocked by news that fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson had been raped outside her home. Several suspects surface over the next  few years, but with little evidence, Lindy, her family and her neighbors attempt to return to life as usual. My Sunshine Away examines the years just before and after that summer through the eyes of a teenage boy both enchanted by Lindy and haunted by the unsolved crime.

My Sunshine Away‘s unnamed narrator quickly hooks readers with his candid confessions and gradual release of information regarding the suspects in Lindy’s rape, including himself. Through this, Walsh creates a tense atmosphere of suspense without losing the heart of the novel. Though I was a little disappointed by the neatness of the ending, the story itself is one full of honesty and nostalgia with the power to grip readers from start to finish.

  • Love this reading in threes installment! I have Where All the Light Tends to Go on my TBR and now need to add Slim And the Beast – you had me at UNC basketball (that’s where I went to grad school)!

    Glad you (mostly) enjoyed My Sunshine Away! I didn’t really think about the ending that way, but can see that now that you mention it. Tamara at Traveling with T met M.O. Walsh at an author signing and said he considered never revealing who the culprit was…

    • Yeah, it wasn’t enough to ruin the book for me, but I felt like the novel had enough edge throughout that it would leave at least a few ends untied. It was still a good read!

  • Kay

    MY SUNSHINE AWAY is on my list. Am hearing such good things about it.

  • I grew up in NC and sometimes Southern Lit makes me feel all comfy and feels familiar, and sometimes I find it completely baffling and foreign. I think it depends on the level of “country” in it as well as the writing technique. I am very drawn to My Sunshine Away. I wish I had time to review it right now! I am so behind though so I will get to it one of these days. :)

    • I definitely have a certain type of Southern Lit that I like, too. I need some edge or grit…just can’t get into the sweet side of the South, though I definitely appreciate it in real life ;)

  • I loved My Sunshine Away, and Where All the Light Tends to Go sounds fantastic!

  • I’ve mentioned this on another blog – I’m dying to read My Sunshine Away, and I got in touch with one company that seemed okay about sending it to the UK, but they’re website said shipping to Europe was either $17 or $25, dependent on weight. I emailed them to clarify, and the reply said they would ship it to me for “only” $55! That’s about £35-40! So if any bloggers out there want to sell theirs, or maybe I could reciprocate with something due out here sooner (for example, when are you getting A God In Ruins? Have you had proofs yet?) I’m sure there’s no way it’s that price for surface mail…it’s just insane! It’s 280-odd days til it comes out here – I just love Southern Gothic, since the amazing Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil…so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m on Twitter @crimeworm1. It’s my own fault for following all these brilliant US blogs – I found Shannon’s first; it’s a slippery slope…

    • $55 is a little crazy! I’ll keep an eye out and maybe the UK version will hit NetGalley early so the wait isn’t TOO long!

      • Thanks Shannon! It was the “only” that blew my mind! As if they were being generous! And it was WAY more than they said on their FAQ page! I could understand if I lived in, say, Tonga, but US to UK has to be possibly the busiest route in the world for shipping! If it was an established blogger I’ve communicated with I’d have no problem sending £/$ to them (I think book people are generally lovely honest people!) I’d imagine MO Walsh must be coming over so it’s a saturation launch here too! Are you guys getting A God In Ruins in May too?

  • I’m intrigued by your statement that Slim and the Beast is unlike anything you’ve ever read. They all sound so good!

  • I’m excited to read My Sunshine Away; M.O. Walsh will be participating in the Arkansas Literary Festival in April and I’ve got to get ready! Where All Light Tends to Go looks really good, as well; I’ve not read anything about this one, until now, so thanks for sharing it with us!

  • Where All the Light Tends to Go and My Sunshine Away are definitely my jam.

  • I actually really like neat endings, so that and everything else I’ve heard about it make it sound perfect for me :)

  • I haven’t read any of these yet, but I’ve got copies of all three of them floating around the house somewhere. I think it’s unfortunate that David Joy’s book has the title it has, because being published on the heels of Anthony Doerr’s much more famous book, potential customers will ask booksellers for “a book I heard about with “All Light” in the title” and they will be given “All the Light We Cannot See” instead.

    • I think you’re right, and felt the same about All That is Solid Melts Into Air from last year, which I really loved.

  • Jennine G.

    Oh three new titles in a good genre! Thanks!

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