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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2016

Book Reviews Robert R. Kracke BOOK REVIEWS Potpourri: Fiction and Non-Fiction The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 295 pp. $25.00 When this reviewer began reading this gothic novel, memories of English literature in college came to mind. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, was presented as a classic example of a novel about war with subtle symbolism throughout. It is no coincidence that one of the characters in The Red Badge of Courage is named Jim Conklin and that his initials happen to be J.C. and that in one scene the trees around the battlefield appear to be shaped as a chapel and the sun is described as a wafer. This excellent novel, The Loney, has the same characteristics along with a novel by Thomas Hardy in English literature which describes Egdon Heath in “The Return of the Native.” The Loney is set in Lancashire in northwest England on a desolate seashore that resembles Mont Saint-Michel with the tide flowing and ebbing creating a land bridge to a lonely, forbidding house. The story is told by a man named Smith whose first name is never revealed and who has a brother who is not only mute but intellectually challenged. They are inseparable in exploring the coastline while they are on a pilgrimage with their parents and other adults for the purpose of taking brother “Hanny” to the healing waters of a shrine. Smith and Hanny are dominated by the antagonist of the book, their mother. She is a religious fanatic who wants the yearly pilgrimage to never change and who points this out ceaselessly to the new priest who is driving their bus and leading their prayers. This priest is constantly being compared to the former priest who died mysteriously. At the beginning of the novel, it is revealed that Hanny later in life becomes a respected church figure who has written a book called, “My Second Life With God,” by Pastor Andrew Smith. The reader is therefore warned that some sort of intervention will take place with Hanny/Andrew that will render him a respected author and church leader. This reviewer cannot describe adequately the writing ability of Andrew Michael Hurley. He is not only eloquent but is well informed concerning his description of the sea and its plants and creatures. Keep a dictionary or computer nearby inasmuch as his vocabulary seems to be fathomless. The entire novel revolves around the concept of good and evil, the supernatural and the natural, and introduces a medieval “func- tion” which has never been brought to the attention of this reviewer: the Pace Egg play. This is a pagan performance which was put on for hundreds of years in England. To attempt to describe it here would be difficult but suffice it to say that it concerns St. George and the characters he slays during the Easter/Passover production, and how they are brought back to life by a comic doctor (one can watch a video of the Pace Egg play on the internet which is performed today in a small town in England). The play represents the pagan, the supernatural, and, in a way, evil/miraculous doings. One of the characters is a drunk, appropriately named “old tosspot”! In an interview, the author has described his attempt in this novel to create what he calls, “a dark nativity.” That probably explains why Steven King has described this book as, “It’s not just good, it’s great. An amazing piece of fiction.” This reviewer agrees. That is not to say that the book does not have its shortcomings. At times, it is difficult to read, and becomes tedious in some of its ritual descriptions, though all in all, it is a disturbing, thoughtful piece of fiction. If the reader is seeking a challenging study of good and evil (Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes to mind), this might satisfy that yearning. Nothing much more can be said in this publication about the controversial nature of this novel. At times, the reader will conclude that the author has an ulterior motive in shaking one’s faith, be it believer or nonbeliever. It can be obtained in most bookstores, on the internet, or in Kindle form which this reviewer wishes he had had with its ease of defining strange terms. It is worth your time. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer, Doubleday, 2016, 449 pp. Dark Money is partly a short biography of Charles and David Koch, and others, and the astounding wealth that the brothers have accumulated, some of which is dedicated to certain political causes. Their father started the fortune which became Koch Industries by doing business with, according to the author, Hitler and Stalin during the lead-up to the war. That fortune inherited by these two men has possibly made them today the two richest men in America if you combine their net worth. Today, the Koch brothers are estimated to 28 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin Fall 2016
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