My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
Plot: In Michael Parker’s new novel, Joel Dunn Jr. tells the story of how he did everything he could to save his family after his mother left and his father’s tenuous hold on sanity unraveled. On a journey from the town of Trent, North Carolina, to the coast, Joel and his little brother Tank thread their way back to their mother, fueled by potato chips, Coke, and the soundtrack of the powerful soul music that their daddy taught them to love. Always keeping the faith that their mother is waiting for them, they move from one kindly stranger to another on their odyssey, Joel ever certain they are being guided to her door: “I was being passed from person to person,” he says, “on my way back into her wide open window.”
My Review: This book has left me with mixed feelings. It is a very engaging story and extremely sad as it deals with Mental illness of a parent, but the way it is written had me constantly confused. There is a scene when Joel Jr. (Mario) leaves his little brother with his “foul mouthed sister” and heads off on his own to find his mother but when he hitches a ride he talks about Tank as if he’s right there in the car with them asking his multitud of questions. I get that this was just his rambling thoughts, but the way it was written had me constantly wondering if it wasn’t Joel Jr. who had the mental illness.
The book is written from the oldest sons point of view and it constantly has him rambling all over the place with frequent mentions of songs and song lyrics, it was actually distracting sometimes. I wound up trying to remember what song he was talking about rather than feeling the deep emotional scene that was being pictured.
That being said however, I still did enjoy the short read. The dialect that is used was slightly irritating at the beginning but as I continued I became accustomed to it and it didn’t bother me as much. In fact now I think it fits the character perfectly.
The characters are well developed and I absolutely adored the youngest brother, Tank. He was innocent, adorable, and quick witted for such a young boy. The oldest boy I was a bit put off at for leaving one of his brothers behind, and the fact he could have told someone or tried to get help for him, it just made it harder for me to pull for him as the hero of this story. I get that he was only fourteen but in this story, his life experiences would have mad him a more mature fourteen year old, one that should have at least tried to help his little brother.
The relationship between the brothers was another confusing aspect for me, the bond between them was very strong at times, but the fact that he constantly slapped his little brother and left one behind kind of contradicted that bond. But in the end the brothers love showed up and was stronger than ever.
Overall I give the book 3 1/2 stars because of the mixed feelings it left me with and it is heavy on the cussing. It’s not a book I’ll put on my to ‘read again shelf’, but it is a book I’m glad I read at least once. This book is dark and emotionally draining, so if you like more upbeat and happy books, you should pass on this. The humor that is attempted is not much relief as it is during some of the darkest times in theses boys life. I think I only cracked maybe one smile during this entire read and it was at cute little Tank. It didn’t bring me to tears or make me feel enraged at the treatment of these boys, I don’t know maybe it’s because it wasn’t a very long book so I didn’t get as involved as I get in beefier novels, but still the emotion this instilled was rather shallow. If you’re looking for a fast and dark read you might give it a shot.