Who will accommodate the powerful if uncomfortable talent -- a force majeure in itself -- of David Rhodes first met in the...

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THE EASTER HOUSE

Who will accommodate the powerful if uncomfortable talent -- a force majeure in itself -- of David Rhodes first met in the more allegorical The Last Fair Deal Going Down (1972)? This new book, again set in his native Iowa, is poised between hairshirt-harsh realism and an apocalyptic nowhere -- an inbred family history which of course bears extension -- the times are bad in this small town in this larger country which is morally and financially bankrupt (the war). As they were earlier when Ansel Easter, grandfather of the unfortunate Easter House, became a man of God and attempted to combine his vision of the ideal and the real -- outraging everyone with his retrieval, from a carnival, of a deformed creature kept in a cage. ""A man is what he does"" -- that's Ansel -- even if good turns to evil (he will be murdered) and history repeats itself (monstrosities; Crimes). Thus Ansel's daughter-in-law Cell (the name reverberates almost too loudly) becomes deranged and she bears a seemingly autistic child, Baron, who too will be put away -- not in an institution as planned but in an abandoned trailer by his older, healthier brother. Then there are the crimes as a small group, known as The Associate, kills one woman and then a man for the insurance money which may save them from the destitution in which they live. . . . Rhodes is a natural writer, strong enough to carry his reader along throughout this gaunt American Primitive almost halfway between Andrew Wyeth and Charles Addams. If a sense of doom is everywhere (evil, with its corollaries, remorse and retribution) hunkering over humanity -- in the long run it is humanity which will carry the day and the days of our years. A singular, spectral novel on its own hardwon terms.

Pub Date: May 1, 1974

ISBN: 1571310770

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974