In Isringhaus’ (King Brute, 2008) second novel, a Southern boy’s Los Angeles sojourn is cut short when his father becomes ill.
After Sonny Goodman’s mother reveals some long-held family secrets on her deathbed, he finds himself too disturbed to remain with his father and his brother, Floyd, at the family’s auto wrecking yard in Asheville, North Carolina. Instead, he chooses to head out west to Los Angeles. After a brief stint selling gold coins for exorbitant prices, he winds up employed by the Church of Satanology selling religion instead. He also meets and falls in love with a stripper named Tiffany Diamond, although things don’t always go smoothly. When Sonny’s moonshine-loving father gets dangerously sick, Floyd calls him home, but by the time Sonny arrives there, his dad’s already in the ground. When there’s a dispute about the brothers’ inheritance and the family’s property, Sonny finds that he has some other uses for the tricks he learned at the church—and that his father’s spirit isn’t quite gone just yet. Sonny’s unconventional line of work is full of unexpected twists and turns, including a visit to a rice plantation in Haiti that features zombies. The segments in Los Angeles, which have a noirish quality, are the most entertaining and engaging in the book. However, other parts of the story may be unpalatable to some readers; for example, Sonny proposes a “Voodooland” theme park, Tiffany is revealed to be a male-to-female transgender woman who refers to herself as a “[c]hick with a dick,” and when Sonny and Floyd head to a private island, they train “an army of native girls to feed them mangoes and star fruit off the trees.” These moments might have been more forgivable if the characters were more sympathetic, but they never seem more than two-dimensional. Overall, this novel is a frustrating read, as it skips from first- to third-person points of view seemingly arbitrarily—sometimes within a single paragraph and sometimes from character to character. As a result, it’s difficult to keep track of who’s speaking and what’s going on. Also, although the novel is billed as a satire, it’s difficult to see what it’s meant to satirize.
A novel of enterprising American success that never quite comes together.