Innocence is savagely confronted by intolerance in a modern morality tale with classical roots.
Meet Poe Revere Didelot, aka The Giant Poe, impossibly tall and broad, with a “port-wine stain like a blood sign splashed on his face and neck,” a “hump on his back,” and “strange eyes of two different colors.” He has six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, and he’s the beloved son of indomitable cheese-maker Rose in the isolated rural community of Belle Coeur County. A freak of nature, Poe lives a peaceful life, tending goats, fishing, and admiring from afar Miranda Thorne, the lovely, clever daughter of mentally failing, previously stellar Boston trial lawyer Prosper Thorne. Add a “sprite” of a courier named Airmail, riding a Kawasaki Ninja motorbike, and you have the bones of Shakespeare’s cast list for The Tempest, updated by Todd (Rain Falls Like Mercy, 2011, etc.) and reshaped as a simpler fable with a contemporary edge. Poe, a sweeter version of Caliban, has the misfortune of observing the rape and beating of Miranda, a crime for which he is arrested, tried, and acquitted, after which a larger and even more devastating attack is inflicted—on the Didelots—by the community. Todd’s curiosity of a novel touches on the familiar features of the original play—a once-powerful man in exile; a wondrous daughter; a suggestion of magic and fantastical beasts—but its shape is both different and more familiar: Poe is a “gentle giant, the man who wouldn’t hurt a fly,” assailed by a society fearful of and vengeful toward the “other.” Though the writing is lyrical and the storytelling sincere, a sense of stereotype infuses this strange mix of police procedural and legend.
A sympathetic but slight fairy tale is overshadowed by its more nuanced forebear, The Tempest.