Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Review: WHAT WE RECKON by Eryk Pruitt

Meet Jack Jordan. He’s a smooth-talking con artist with a penchant for the fast life. He’s snuck into Lufkin, Texas, in the dead of night with little more than a beat-up Honda, a hollowed-out King James Bible full of cocaine, and enough emotional baggage to sink a steam ship. He’s charming, dedicated, and extremely paranoid.

Summer Ashton, his partner-in-crime. She’s stuck by him through thick and thin, but lately her mind has begun to slip. They’ve told their fair share of lies and she’s having a devil of a time remembering what’s the truth. And recently, she’s been hearing voices. Unfortunately for both of them, she’s the brains of the operation.
- Polis Books, 2017

With that entrance, you may think you know where this story is headed, trust me reader, you do not.

WHAT WE RECKON by Eryk Pruitt tells the tale of Jack Jordan, once a simple, bumbling college-town drug dealer with dreams bigger than his abilities. After he meets Summer Ashton, or Jasmine, as she was called those years ago, he learns the ways of contact-making and deal-brokering. Together they grift their way through the American south, changing cars, names and addictions with each new hamlet.

Yes, it's a gritty, dirty crime romp featuring the desperate and often ill-planned endeavors of these two addled drug slingers. The novel is brutal and this down-and-out duo often find themselves in life or death transactions, facing violent adversaries, often because of their loose hold on sobriety and reality. Their relationship is more than complicated, they are full of need and hate for one another.

There are moments of dark humor, most notably when Eryk details his colorful cast of spoiled clients or describes a smoky, never-ending living room soiree.  The author's ability to highlight and shade this tart story with levity is due, in no small part, to his glittering way with words. WHAT WE RECKON is a dark story, at times reminding me of MIDNIGHT COWBOY or REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, that is made more palatable by the author's sweet prose.

RECKON is an addictive read, slipping along at a mesmerizing clip, darkly rich in atmosphere and character definition. Looking into the mental and emotional machinations of our main characters is fascinating and terrifying. RECKON is also pessimistic, perfectly painting the life of those enslaved by drugs, mental-illness or their own devices. 

WHAT WE RECKON is absorbing and one of my favorite books of the year.

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