It’s Publication day for First the Thunder by Randall Silvis!
I absolutely love Silvis’ Ryan DeMarco series perhaps because I also adore Ryan DeMarco as a character. I was certain that a novel by Silvis, rather than a thriller, would be equally as good especially considering that Silvis is an award winning writer – books, plays and more. Sadly, First the Thunder fell short of my expectations.
Set in mining country Pennsylvania, this is the story of three brothers whose lives have not quite gone according to plan. Harvey drives a truck, Stevie does odd jobs here and there after he was in an accident that made him a bit “slow,” and Will owns a bar that is struggling after a new highway came through on the other side of town. His wife, Laci, is a crime scene photographer who is struggling to keep her life together for the betterment of her daughter. It is, however, the Rust Belt and there is not a lot of hope to be found. The situation worsens when Harvey, believing he has been “slighted” by his brother-in-law, convinces his brothers to help him get revenge. Matters go from bad to worse for this trio and a secret, long buried, threatens them all.
I really do like reading stories set in the new America – the nation with a southern region steeped in poverty and racism, a Rust Belt that is decaying and/or dying and overflowing with too much machismo and running rampant with drugs and a west that is slowly running out of water and heating up too fast for its people to combat the issue. This is America today and the authors who are addressing these issues should be commended for tackling ugly, depressing topics that no one really wants to think about much less read. But they do write about them and, generally, weave tales that are mesmerizing, if not utterly depressing and hopeless.
Silvis captures all of those feelings and more. He nails the characterization of the white male whose pride is gone, whose dreams are shattered and who turn instead to being the testosterone laden bully that many of us have come to know far too well. So why did the book fall short for me? It was, simply put, too dark, too depressing and too full of idiotic men doing incredibly inane things just because they are men. When we, as women, have to live with this type of stupidity day in and day out, when it is the fabric of our country right now, reading more of it is a strain; finding any redeemable quality on which to grasp and resonate was simply asking too much. I’m sick to death of these people in real life and I was sick of them in this book too. I honestly did not care one whit what happened to these three brothers and, when that is the case for any book character, there really is no point reading. I don’t expect happy endings, but I do expect to have some thread, regardless of how tenuous it may be, that will keep me involved. With First the Thunder, I never found that thread. For the record, I just finished Bone on Bone by Julia Keller that also is about the failing rust belt and mining towns gone bust. I highly recommend that book to those looking for books in this genre.
*I received an advanced ebook from the publisher via Netgalley. A review was expected in return.