REVIEW: Rene, by Eric Shonkwiler
This is billed as the opening of a three part novella and having finished reading it last night, in one sitting, I’m almost disappointed to know I’m already a third of the way through.
Rene cares for her sick mother in their delapidated homestead somewhere in the deep south of 1950’s America. Despite her mother’s tough-as-hoof-tacks southern grit and Rene’s rock steady calmness it is clear that Lilah is dying. A chance encounter offers the possibility of a cure from an unexpected source but both Lilah and Rene have grave misgivings.
There is darkness here but it is definately not of the clumsy unremmitting variety. Instead it is its pierced with flashes of hope and kindness. There is also intimate and unpleasant graphic detail associated with Lilah’s illness but again, it is not the centre piece of this excerpt and serves instead to add a sense of urgency neatly counterbalencing the deadpan Southern dialogue.
Eric Shonkwiler’s style is redolent of Faulkener’s As I lay Dying, not just in its setting and premis but most strikingly in its use of isolated imagery and plausibly dispassionate narration.