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Book Review: The Line That Held Us

**Please be advised this book contains violence and gore. Not suitable for all audiences. Some adult language is present as well throughout the novel.**IMG-6782.JPG

The description on the inside cover:

“An accidental death, and the cover-up that follows, spark a dark series of events that reverberates through the lives of four people who will never be the same again.

When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck, a kill that could make the difference between meat for the winter and an empty freezer, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer, his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin–and to Calvin’s girlfriend, Angie–a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. A story of friendship and family, The Line That Held Us is a tale balanced between destruction and redemption, where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching those you love. From a writer whose stories are “like a pull from a bottle of Appalachian moonshine: smooth and elegant with a punch in the gut that lingers a while after you’re done” (Garden & Gun), The Line That Held Us is another masterwork of Southern noir.”

If you would like to order this book or check out the author check out the link below:

David Joy

The Line That Held Us by David Joy is a 256-page fictional novel. There is a brief acknowledgment at the end of the book after the story ends.

For August 2018’s Book of The Month choice, I picked The Line That Held Us by David Joy. I wasn’t able to read it during August but I am so glad I was finally able to pick it up and dive right in! I must warn you now that it’s violent with some gore and has adult language.

I was not sure what to expect when I picked this novel. I knew I was looking for something different from what I had been reading. Lately, I have been in the mood to read emotional stories with that girl mentality or feminine vibe but I think this time when I chose this novel I was hoping for a masculine viewpoint. Boy, did this story do that for me. Does that make sense guys? Where you read a story and you can sense that it has a feminine touch behind it and then read a story like this and you can almost tell it came from the mind of a guy? I know when I’m styling a story I can phrase it from a girl point of view with feminine details as well flip it the other way and give it more masculine details. That part is unrelated, the story doesn’t focus on masculine versus feminine, I just thought it was interesting with the stories I have been reading lately that you can tell the difference once you read the whole novel. Anyways, let’s get back on topic!

The story takes place in Jackson County South Carolina. The characters we get the most involvement with are Darl Moody, his best friend Calvin Hooper and Calvin’s girlfriend Angie Moss, Dwayne Brewer, and Dwayne’s brother is Carol “sissy” Brewer. This community is one of those small-town lifestyles where everyone knows everyone in one way or another. You hear the rumors and gossip about each other before the day is through. You heard the family legends passed down through generations and you remember the good as much as the bad throughout your whole life.

When you open up the story you are thrown into the scene of Darl Moody. Normal mountainside country boy just living his hardworking normal life. I loved how the author makes the characters very realistic. I got the impression that Darl is a good ole boy who also understands that the law isn’t always right. I am a person that aims to follow the law and be a good person but sometimes morals and the law don’t even out. That may sound like I use my own personal morals to justify why I break the law, but that is not how I intended it to sound. To me, with a good storyline, you have to make a tough choice even if the law says it’s not the right choice in their opinion. In Darl’s case, we are referring to Poaching. (If you ask, “Poaching has been defined as the illegal hunting or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, poaching was performed by impoverished peasants for subsistence purposes and a supplement for meager diets.”)

The first time we meet Darl he is hunting during the off-season on land that is not his. He has his eye on a buck that he’s been chasing for two years.

“The buck Darl’d seen crossing from the Buchanan farm into Coon Coward’s woods for the past two years had a rocking chair on his head and a neck thick as a tree trunk.” (page 1)

This very first chapter is exactly where it all happened. This is the true start and you don’t often find that right off the bat when you’re reading a story. Usually, things build slowly, giving you characters and backstories. I actually enjoyed how quick this story started up. You get the main event that leads to everything else, you aren’t wondering why this specific detail is important or why the author added that detail. Straight to the point, BOOM, here it all is. I mentioned earlier I was looking for a change in what I had been reading and this style writing right here did just that in an instant. So that was refreshing for me. This particular writing style may not be for everyone if they prefer a slow dramatic build but let me tell you this, throughout the rest of the story, there is so much more that happens that you kind of need something big at the start to even the whole story out. Otherwise, you’d find the beginning of the story useless and boring. I enjoyed this style very much compared to what I had been jumping into lately. Thank you, David Joy, for that experience.

The next chapter takes you immediately to Dwayne Brewer. Wow. This chapter really spoke to my heart and immediately made me think of him in a way that is unexpected. I believe the intended goal between the summary and Dwayne’s character description, we are supposed to believe that Dwayne is a heartless brute of a man, however, if that was the intent of the author he failed. The way Dwayne’s introduction chapter is played out, he is a man most often times misunderstood. He really spoke to my heart. I felt like the author put a lot of detail into Dwayne and his first chapter. There is so much detail in that chapter that if you can’t see it when you close your eyes then you and I live a very different lifestyle. I saw each second as the author wrote it, it was amazing and slightly heartbreaking at the same time. I felt like I had met Dwayne before like I knew his family and his life. I honestly think this chapter was the chapter where I got sucked in, which is awesome for the author because it is the second chapter of the story. It might just be me but I truly felt like there was so much detail (in all the right ways) put into this chapter. Not overwhelming either, it was organized and focused, crystal clear, cut and dry as well, which makes it easy for you as a reader to get through as well envision

Dwayne is described as a big brute of a man, probably biggest and meanest in town. After all the whole town knows the Brewer family for their violent nature of vengeance, according to the summary on the book cover. In Dwayne’s introductory chapter the author sets the mood at Walmart where he witnesses a situation between three young males in which this angers Dwayne. The scene involves two boys who are bullying one boy, the one boy reminds Dwayne of his brother Sissy which makes the situation between the three boys personal to Dwayne. The chapter ends with a confrontation, unlike anything you would have imagined before. If you were trying to predict what happens, you won’t be able to and I really enjoyed that. Then Dwayne leaves the store eager to tell his brother what had happened and we are taken to the next chapter where we meet Calvin Hooper.

Calvin Hooper is best friends with Darl Moody from the first chapter. Both seem like hard-working country boys with the small town lifestyle. They work hard, they come home, rest, start over in the morning. In Calvin’s first introductory chapter I wasn’t blown away. It was a calm chapter for details however it did bring you to connect Calvin and Darl together. I believe Calvin is like most of us, we always say we will help our friends and family out no matter what but then when they ask us for help we ask a million questions before we jump in to help them. Where/when/why/who/what/etc. Darl calls Calvin for help, Calvin asks a bunch of questions, Darl is very vague and tries to explain that the less Calvin knows the better, but Calvin being more selfish and curious refuses to help Darl in the middle of the night for no reason without some sort of knowledge or justification. This chapter right here should teach you one thing folks: If you offer your family and friends help without hesitation, maybe when they ask you to do something you should just do it without asking questions. Because once you start pushing for answers you make yourself more “part of something” than you need to actually be. If they say “Hey, come and dig this horse grave for me at midnight” either go dig the grave and don’t ask questions or say “No thanks, not going to happen, pal.” And move on with your life. Calvin, however, had to ask questions and got himself into quite the situation he did not need to be in if he would have just done what was asked of him. From the story’s perspective though, if Calvin had done that without question, the story would not have played out like it did, thus, it was needed for Calvin to ask questions of Darl.

This chapter is where we learn that an accident happened and Darl needs Calvin’s help to clean it up and possibly covering it up. This chapter also quickly explains WHY it needs to be covered up and if you have ever been deathly afraid of someone and feared for your family’s safety then the brief explanation will be more than enough for you. As soon as the words are released you will think to yourself “Ah, yep. That makes total sense, can’t blame him for wanting to cover that up either.” Then the story moves on just like that. The following chapter describes Carol “sissy” Brewer and his living arrangements and is also from the perspective of Dwayne Brewer. It’s not a Dwayne chapter but if you read the book you’ll understand why it’s not Carol’s chapter either.

From here the story starts unleashing details that I don’t want to share. It’s where the vengeance happens, retaliation and such. After those first few chapters end the rest of the book opens up to what life is like for the three males and eventually one female. Most stories start with introducing the characters and then have a big scene that the story is about, then it wraps it up and ends, right? Well this story opens with the big scene through the eyes of the main characters, slowly describes each character and their backstory in the chapters to come one detail at a time, and then slowly ends the story with how everything wrapped up in the end. It felt like the opposite style of most writing I have read lately and again, that was quite refreshing. I was not used to the style and it’s still interesting to me as I write it out for you right now.

The one thing I will mention about the ending though is it focuses on Dwayne Brewer completely and leaves you wondering about Calvin Hooper and his girlfriend Angie Moss. All other details have been answered except with those two. I would be interested in reading another novel of the story about what happened between the three of them in ten years. Where are they, what is life like for them, is everyone okay physically and legally, does Dwayne and Calvin “get away” with all the trouble they caused throughout the story? Do Angie and Calvin stay together after everything she learned? I did have a lot of questions about Calvin and Angie that I may never learn, so that part does bug me. But I also did not expect that very last paragraph about Dwayne Brewer. The details leading up to that paragraph I was hoping for a different ending, but as soon as it happened I was shocked and realized that I did not see it ending that way at all. (In a good way. I like when a story ends unexpectedly. Too much predictability can be boring and annoying.) One last thing, at the beginning of my review I mentioned that this was an August pick, but I’m glad I ended up reading it in October because it really set the scene. Fall, colder weather, Halloween is right around the corner! Sometimes when you line up your book with your real life, it’s as if you are putting yourself right into the story like a fly on the wall.

I want to take a moment and thank David Joy for writing this novel. I loved reading it, I would recommend it to others. Personally, I would warn anyone who doesn’t like gore, violence, or thrillers to probably stay away. But if you’re an open-minded reader who doesn’t mind reading all styles of books, this one is a great read in my opinion. Simply put, I loved it. Short, simple and quick compared to other novels but amazing nonetheless. Thank you for your style David and I can’t wait to pick up your other work. I did notice you have two other fictional novels out right now as well: The Weight of This World and Where All Light Tends to Go. [He also has a memoir out if that is what you enjoy reading, it’s Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman’s Journey.]

“In his mind, he already knew what was inside. He could walk the place by memory, having been in that place hundreds of times before: a pile of rusted T-posts in the corner, dust-covered quarts of motor oil lining a shallow ledge, brown-glass Clorox bottles, lengths of rope wound and draped on bent nails, bolt cutters here, a set of Allen wrenches there, three cage traps beside a dented gasoline can in the loft. It was a scene not unlike a hundred other barns in the county, a place filled with nothing of great importance. But as his hand touched the cold metal handle of the barn door, he was overcome with an ominous sort of sadness, something coming through his body, assuring him of what he would find.” (Pages 100-101)

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