|Link to B&N|
"The telephone was the old fashioned kind with a dial, rotary phones they called them, and the numbers under the dial were either worn away from use or obscured by dirt. He figured the second. Either way, in the absence of the numbers a person would need to count in order to make a phone call. Graham guessed that such a telephone probably didn't get much use, considering. It was a conduit to a world that had no business here."
Two words I came across in other readers' comments were "Faulkner-esque" and "rural Gothic." I think both sum up the experience of the book very well. Clinch took the basics of a real-life case of four brothers who lived together on a farm in upstate New York and blended it with history from his own family to create a fascinating glimpse of a small knot of people "left behind" by the modern world. "I don't think Lester's family ever knew about the depression or recognized they'd gone through it," their neighbor, Preston Hatch, relates. "It was all the same to them."
The book is organized as a series of narrative reminisces from different characters in different styles and jumps back and forth among the 1930s, 1950s, and 1990s, which was fascinating - there's that "delayed decoding" thing again that I love. You ended up with an in-depth look at the family from multiple perspectives at key points in their lives. Clinch is clearly most interested in the three brothers, but I found myself wanting to know about their youngest sister who makes a break with her past and yet remains tied to it. I have to admit I was looking for something more - a tall order, possibly unfair in such a terrific book - but I kept waiting for An Event, or A Revelation, until I finally figured out one wasn't coming. In this sense, I feel like Clinch may have stuck too close to his original story, but his priority seems to be showing the facets of this hidden, backwater, rural world rather than using it as a setting for a more plot-driven story.
It's beautifully written (that's the Faulkner part) and compelling in its pathos and ugliness. Absolutely worth reading.