Off For the Sweet Hereafter by T.R. Pearson

I first came across the writings of T.R. Pearson when my book club read A Short History of a Small Place. Many of the members didn’t care for it, but I thought it was good fun Southern dysfunctional family fiction. This is the sequel to Short History and is even more over the top and more enjoyable. This is the book Faulkner would write if he were alive today. Both writers are great portrayers of the South and it’s many interesting characters, also they have similar writing styles and are not big on ending sentences. Filled with every other punctuation available, this type of writing is more difficult to follow, but eerily reminiscent of how us southerners tell stories.
Mr. Pearson is, well, hilarious. He has a clear perception of his fellow human beings, so when he describes us and our behavior and our thoughts, he doesn’t need to embellish or exaggerate to get the reader to laugh out loud – after all, we all do pretty freaking funny stuff every day. Another plus is Pearson’s characters – they are incredibly well developed and three dimensional. Readers will almost surely come to love just about every character in this book, in some way or another.  Take Raeford Benton Lynch, the focus, such as there is one, son of the fat Jeerer Lynch and her chicken-raising husband, this horse-faced, pointy-nosed, square-toothed, lumbering fool takes to a life of crime in order to win the heart of a girl he meets while digging graves. But Jane Elizabeth Firesheets, who offers Benton Lynch his first “physical therapy,” is indeed no ordinary girl. She’s a stone-cold tramp, who slips out of her snug clothes and into the ammonia-smelling hay faster than you can say Fuquay-Varina, which figures prominently in Lynch’s robbery routine. Things take a decided turn for the worse when Benton “steps in some big, big shit,” as the inarticulate bumpkin himself puts it. His low-rent Clyde Barrow act results in some untimely deaths, including his own. And, once again, events in Neely and thereabouts bring us to Commander Avery’s funeral parlor, for that’s where Neely’s Freest like to get together–in the presence of death itself. This is a book that makes you want to wrestle people to the ground so you can read it out loud to them.

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