A wandering tale set in the Deep South that offers one action-packed escapade after another.
Azreay’l (Liberty Call…Port of Spain, 2013, etc.) dives headlong into the adventures of Boogey Johnson and his cousin, Winton, as they tool around the Alabama backwoods. It’s not entirely clear what the two are trying to accomplish, although Boogey is obsessed with winning the lottery, and they’re both quite adept at running into trouble. Specifically, Winton plays the role of primary troublemaker, often leaving Boogey to clean up the mess. Typically, it’s small-time stuff, such as shouting matches with women or drunken high jinks. But when Winton eventually gets mixed up with some hardened gangsters, it challenges Boogey’s ability to keep the two safe from harm. Boogey also has his own problems, mostly financial, which lead to drinking and marriage difficulties. Several seemingly random vignettes feature a drug lord, a corrupt sheriff and a famous rapper, among others. At a disorientingly fast pace, the novel follows several characters at various times and locations, but their relationships to one another are mostly tangential. As a result, several loose ends remain untied, including the status of Boogey’s marriage. Azreay’l’s overly descriptive prose can be difficult to follow, as when a man is hit in the face with a rake: “He staggers, slightly dizzy, and then falls into the house, screeching, and grabbing his forehead when finally peeking out then stepping from alongside the house, in view.” When the author simplifies his characters’ language, however, he reveals a gift for realism. For example, an early scene between Boogey and his wife, Nattie, plays out vividly, as she rues the hand that her husband has dealt her: “You know, you use to be a young fool with wild, non-accomplishable dreams, but that is what I fell in love with, and now...well, now you’re an old fool with even bigger, un-accomplishable dreams, like lottery.” In the future, Azreay’l may find more success by paring his stories down.
An ambitious novel that, despite moments of clarity, gets lost in unnecessary description.