Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Beasts of the Earth by James Wade


HALL WAYS REVIEW: AUDIOBOOK / PRINT REVIEW: Sometimes, the very best books I read are the hardest to write about once I’ve finished that final chapter; Beasts of the Earth by James Wade is one of those books.

Part of the problem is that turning that last page and closing the cover of Beasts of the Earth doesn’t end the story. Scenes settle back over me and replay in my mind, and I find myself wondering about characters, too, as if I could get into the car and travel the backroads to those melancholy times and places and check on them. But the main difficulty in summing up a book of this caliber is that no words I can string together will do it justice. Wade’s prose is exquisite and a fully immersive experience.

“LeBlanc turned back to the horizon where the far sky had tasted the morning and come aglow in swirls of rose pink.”

The descriptions in Beasts of the Earth are captivating and complex with next-level imagery that often juxtaposes beauty with ugliness, purity with evil, natural with unnatural. Wade’s mastery of figurative language enriches the story and the metaphors found in the recurrence of two animals are stunning.  Scenes are haunting, even horrifying, yet there is a sprinkling of hope even in the absence of happily-ever-afters.

“How privileged are we to ponder our own existence. How cursed.”

Wade writes complex, complicated characters that make your heart ache, your head hurt, and certainly spark your ire – sometimes all at once. As with Wade’s other outstanding novels, All Things Left Wild and River, Sing Out, there is much that happens via the characters’ words and actions, but there is much more that happens in their minds and off the page. He is especially talented at creating people who appear simple and are easily overlooked but have so much depth of character. Few words, many thoughts. Wade forces readers to put themselves inside his characters, and it’s uncomfortable to be there.

The delicate, seemingly disconnected threads of the stories ultimately weave themselves together into one perfect reading package. With its dual timelines and multiple, multilayered plots incorporating elements of gritty crime fiction, mystery, and literary fiction, Beasts of the Earth is a true work of art. I’ll be watching for this novel on awards lists.

ABOUT THE NARRATION: The audiobook narration by Roger Clark is excellent. That accent! His g-dropping will have readers hangin' on Wade's every word. Clark’s style is part campfire storyteller, part backwoods preacher, and fully engages the listener with even pacing and voice inflection. Clark also narrated Wade’s second novel, River, Sing Out, and he’s absolutely perfect for narrating Southern fiction. This was the first novel I've listened to via NetGalley's app, and I had no issues at all. I listened at regular speed, but it would have been nice to have an option between 1x and 1.25x. 



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