Although I included “The Devil All the Time” by Donald Ray Pollock on my top ten best fiction books of 2011 (it came in at #4), I have been hesitant to review it, if only because I did not think my review would do it justice. “The Devil All the Time” is without a doubt one of the best pieces of fiction I have read over the last five years or so, it is at times harrowing, disturbing, heartbreaking, intense, poignant, and, above all, magnificent.
“The Devil All the Time” interweaves the life stories of families from downtrodden towns in West Virginia and Ohio. The book starts out with Willard Russell, a South Pacific war veteran, who can’t quite get past the terrible violence he witnessed. He meets the beautiful Charlotte and they have a son together, Arvin Eugene, who is the binding force of the novel. We’re also introduced to a crooked small town sheriff, a violent married couple who have an insidious pastime, a despicable so-called preacher, and a traveling duo who make what money they can while on the lamb. Forces of nature or fate drive these people together, forever entwining their lives.
Although I’ll readily admit that I love this novel, it is a brutal novel with brutal storylines – it is not for everyone (though I would highly recommend it if you love good writing). This is not a book to read if you’re looking for anything redeeming about humanity, but if you enjoy Flannery O’Connor or Joe R. Lansdale, then you’re in for a good time. This is contemporary fiction at its finest, but word to the wise: don’t hitchhike.
I would give this novel 6 stars if I could.
Photo from Goodreads