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An overlong, overwrought southern gothic first-novel in which a charismatic mountain preacher searches for God and ends up destroying his family. The novel begins in 1941, in Randolph County, Alabama, with a lot of good old-fashioned southern novel carryings-on. The Treadwell family (not quite poor-white trash, but thinking about it) consists of twins Doug and Luke. older brother Will, and father Robert and his wife, known as Mother. When rebellious Will curses out Mother, Robert sticks his head in a slop bucket and Will replies by getting the shotgun and blowing away Robert's prize bull, Job. Robert then takes said shotgun and beats Will into the ground like a fence post. Shortly after this, Robert fills Doug so full of religious nonsense that Doug runs away looking for God and drowns crossing a stream, which makes Robert so crazy he leaves home himself for the life of an itinerant mountain preacher. All this in the first 43 pages. The exhausted reader then watches as Will returns from Guadalcanal, a war hero, marries an obedient and placid girl named Susan, but has an affair with her sister Elizabeth (whom Luke, in Korea, really considers his girl). Elizabeth, thinking she's pregnant, leaves town for a home for unwed mothers; it's a false alarm, but she meets Robert and is immediately caught up in his spell. They go off traveling together, holding revival meetings in mountain villages, and once Robert even cures a mysterious cripple in a limousine, but he then has a stroke and goes back home to Mother and family. By this time, Will is a successful farmer, Susan has died early of cancer, and Luke hangs around selling insurance and moping over Elizabeth. The smouldering relationship between Robert and Will comes to a head when Will deafens Robert by placing a shotgun on his shoulders and firing it next to his ear. Robert wanders off to die, and Will is killed by a raging bull. In sum: a lot of frothing literary sound and fury signifying very little indeed.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1986
Publisher: Arbor House