Review by De Gevallene
They will tell you this book is dark, and it is.
OK, read it as a horror story if you like and thrill at that: it works well. Bassoff writes beautifully. He’s good at atmospherics. Read it as magical realism, as bizarro fantasy. The eerily perfect surface of the town of Angels and Hope sends the invisible fingers that creep up your spine. The descent into horror territory is surreal, explicit, unforgiving and remorseless. Great dark book.
But none of that is as dark as its subtext – the underbelly beneath the grinning plastic surface of contemporary America. About evangelical communities in love with a pussy-grabbing leader defending police brutality with a lie on his lips and a bible in his pudgy hands. About nice patriotic educated people whose version of Jesus doesn’t suffer little children to come unto him, but bombs them or puts them in cages. It’s a book about capitalism – wealth that turns a blind eye to its origin. About corruption. A book about the glorification of the shiny and superficial. The lie of Walt Disney.
Yes. It’s a book about the pus and poison that lies beneath middle-class America.
The heart of the book is in this passage:
The screaming continued, and they weren’t roller coaster screams. Some of the bystanders covered their ears with their hands. Others turned and walked away.
“Somebody is in trouble!” Hardy shouted. “How the hell do I get in?”
“There’s no sense in trying.”
“Better to walk away, I think.”
“These things can’t be prevented.”
“We should get back to the rides. What if more paying customers arrive?”
I’m interested in the criminal justice system in America. I write to Senators and Representatives a lot. The people who make laws that imprison the poor for twenty, forty, sixty years, stealing their lives. Rich people in big white houses, who feel it is their smug Christian duty to throw away forgiveness, condemn their brothers, and demonstrate their own superiority by protecting the death sentence. I write sometimes to one charismatically ‘liberalising’ Commissioner of the Department of Corrections of a southern state, a man who goes all dewy eyed about how he accompanies each death row prisoner on his final walk and offers to pray with him, as the white-coated state officials inject him with lethal fluid. That Commissioner clearly wants you to feel that this sanctimonious participation in a dance of death shows what a great guy he is, what a pure, brave, high thinking Christian fellow. (You know who you are, Commissioner. You should read this book.)
“Do you think God watches? Hardy had asked. Do you think he cares? I hope not, she’d said. I hope that, after all of these centuries, God is tired. I hope that he’s given up.”
Bassoff clearly thinks so.
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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. The views expressed in it are entirely my own. (You can share them if you like).