Two Southern white guys, their lives a shambles, take a trip downriver only to find madness and death.
Will Rhind and Thom Verdery are old friends in their mid-30s, natives of Augusta, Georgia. Rhind works for the local TV station; his drinking problem has caused his wife to leave, their small child in tow. Verdery, suspected of sexual harassment of a female student, has just been let go by the prep school where he taught theater, and he's broken up with his girlfriend in the process. The men have decided, as an escape perhaps, to row their longboat to Savannah. They’re soon joined by Rhind’s father, Dan, who's brought his own boat; he too is estranged from his wife. The booze flows freely. Ill-fated Georgians navigating a river bring to mind James Dickey’s Deliverance, but Morris’ first novel has little in common with that action-packed bestseller, though there are two violent encounters. The first occurs when Alice Mays, a clearly insane old woman, accuses the men of trespassing on her humble riverfront home. Alice is cradling a shotgun; the guys are naked after swimming. The tension slackens during an interminable back and forth which is halted by a peacemaking deputy. A second encounter ends with Verdery knocking Alice unconscious as he roars “Goddam these countrified people.” He’s a hothead, feeling the gin, and Rhind is too drunk to row. It’s no fun watching these clowns flub the simplest tasks, like making phone calls, but a theme does emerge from the confusion: coping with life is a solitary business.
The setting is authentic (Morris knows his river) but the author has a long way to go before finding his voice.