“The Sock Thief” by Ana Crespo and Nana Gonzalez. Albert Whitman & Co., 2015. $16.99.
Felipe has mangoes and needs socks. This delightful story follows Felipe around the town as he exchanges mangoes for socks and, ultimately, explains why he needs them. This book teaches manners, values and a smattering of Portuguese, all in an immensely enjoyable Brazilian tale.
— Beth Colvin, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Where All Light Tends to Go” by David Joy. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015. $26.95
Jacob McNeely might have been graduating high school if he hadn’t quit after his sophomore year. Instead, he’s perched on a hillside high above Walter Middleton High watching his ex-girlfriend, Maggie Jennings, celebrate with her new boyfriend and her parents. Jacob’s mother is a meth addict; his father sold the drug to her.
Jacob is just brimming with Appalachian fatalism and is convinced his future there in Jackson County, North Carolina, is written in his genes.
He winds up working for his father, a successful and ruthless drug dealer who has a legitimate auto repair business as a cover. Jacob knows he can never get out of the life of failure for which he is predestined, but Maggie is meant for something better, Jacob believes.
Jacob hopes to help Maggie get away to college, but things like his own propensity for drug use and violence get in his way. He bungles a job his father assigns him and the two lowbrow mechanics who work in his garage and his other business, too. Murder isn’t easy.
Jacob has no one to trust in the mountain community where he lives, and no one expects much of him either. As he tries to beat the odds, the repercussions of his bungled job come back to haunt him, and just when it looks like he has spotted an opening to daylight, it turns out to be a dead end.
Joy is a sound writer who has clearly been strongly influenced by other Appalachian writers like Ron Rash and Charles Frazier. He begins the book with a quote from Cormac McCarthy, master of dark Appalachian tales. This book is also dark, relentlessly so, and violent. But there are no potholes in the plot to trip up readers, and even at his worst, Jacob is likable and believable. It’s a good ride down a dark and scary mountain road right up to the point where you reach the end. Then you’re someplace you knew you’d be from the first page. It’s still worth the trip.
— Greg Langley, Denham Springs