WALK ME TO THE DISTANCE by Percival Everett


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David Larson has recently returned, in one piece, from combat in Vietnam--but he doesn't really have a place to come home to: his parents have been killed in an auto accident; his sister and her lawyer-husband, firmly opposed to the Vietnam war, don't even want him (the dumb soldier) in their house. So David hits the road, stopping when his car breaks down outside of Slut's Hole, Wyoming. And, liking the place, he starts to get along quite well in this desolate area. He gets a job as an attendant in a highway rest-station. He boards at the farm owned by ""Sixbury""--an active, crustily good-humored, 60-ish widow. . . whom David grows to love. But Sixbury also has a badly retarded son, near-adult Pattick, whose strong, inchoate sexual needs become an increasingly severe problem for the household: neither farm-boy bestiality nor a prostitute (hired by David and Sixbury) offers a permanent solution. Then, when a seven-year-old Vietnamese orphan-girl is abandoned at David's rest station, David and Sixbury decide to take care of her--creating an unstable situation. All too predictably, Patrick eventually rapes the girl; almost in slow motion, a gang of local men (including David himself) silently takes Patrick away for lynching. And finally there's a rather contrived upbeat ending of shifting allegiances--as Sixbury, after suffering a stroke, stands up for David against a police investigation, choosing him over her dead son. Everett, author of an intriguing but strained first novel, Suder (1983), makes it hard to like--or believe in--this feverish story: he keeps the dialogue down to a simmer of Gary-Cooper-ish grunts, and his narration is delivered in the most extreme, least involving, Western-laconic style. So, though there's a core of emotional power here, in the David/Sixbury/Patrick triangle, the surrounding novel is barely credible, woodenly plotted.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1984
Publisher: Ticknor & Fields/ Houghton Mifflin