Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: The Weight of This World by David Joy


All the weight of this world seemed to be on him right then and he just stood there staring into nothing at all, unsure how much longer he could go without buckling beneath it.

The first time I attended a demolition derby was in the 7th grade. My mom took me, my brother, and my best friend at the time to the Anderson County fairgrounds in South Carolina. It was a hot summer night, there was a large crowd for the fair, and I remember walking around with my friend checking out the girls. We didn’t talk or flirt with any of them, just smiled, and kept walking. This went on until it was time for the derby to start.

The derby was set up in a large parking lot with stands set up to form a ring. There were 10 to 12 participants driving all sorts of different cars. There were old muscle cars, beat up junkies, and cars you’d use to knock around in. There was a loud guy on the sound system that let us all know what the rules were, but you really couldn’t understand a word he said. When it was time for the demolition to take place the waved a flag and the cars all went at it.

I remember how awesome it was to hear the metal crunch and smash and to see cars be beat into useless pieces of junk. It was over as quick as it started and I went home satisfied with the event that took place.

Reading David Joy is a lot like that. His stories are demolition derbies of pain and beauty. It hurts to read the pain that these characters endure, but there’s beauty in every word so it keeps you turning pages. The Weight of This World introduces us to Aiden and Thad. They’re childhood best friends who have seen more tragedy in their young lives than most people should. All Aiden and Thad have to get through the trials of life is each other, and even that is a thread that gets worn thin.

This book takes us on a journey of the most volatile time in their friendship. They witness an event that causes strain and dredges us the pain of their pasts. Every burden they’ve had to carry becomes heavy until they both reach their breaking points and then irreparable damage is done. You feel for both characters because if one decision was different it could have changed the outcome of what takes place.

The Weight of This World is not necessarily good reading but it is worthwhile. It’s not some cozy story you’re going to curl up by the fireplace and read, there’s not a lot of laughter and joy in these pages. It’s a story that’s going to make you feel and hurt and is going to expose you to a pair of broken lives. It’s going to make you consider the dark places of our world and hopefully see it differently.

David Joy has given us a piece of southern fiction that is both timely and haunting. A dying job market is a reality that people in the rural south must deal with every day, and the choices they make to earn a living may disturb some, but you do what you must to survive. Most haunting is the ways in which these characters choose to medicate their pain, and it’s not just fiction. I’ve seen it in the small town I’m from in Georgia.

Finally, The Weight of This World is not all pain. There’s beauty in every word that David Joy writes. That needs to be emphasized. This is a talented writer and there are whole passages that you’ll read over and over because of the word choices and how each sentence flows. He makes each character alive and the scenery real enough to hear, see, and touch. It’s an easy world to get lost in and even with all the pain you’ll experience you’ll want to go back.

The Weight of This World is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Indie Bound

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