The Weight of This World

David Joy's second novel is set in the same Appalachian nooks and crannies of Jackson County, N.C., as his Edgar-finalist debut, Where All Light Tends to Go--and it teems with a similar cast of characters saddled with a legacy of poverty, violence, addiction and hopelessness. The Weight of This World begins with the suicide/murder of 12-year-old Aiden McCall's parents, and makes its way through more mayhem and death as it unwinds toward its grim conclusion. In between are all manner of tweakers, shake-and-bake meth cookers and hillbilly nimrods trying to survive.

A lifelong Jackson County resident, Joy knows every crossroad, fishing hole, church and corner store where "most folks came in for Zebra Cakes and SunDrops, a box of Copenhagen or a carton of Dorals." His novel reeks of authenticity; this world is grisly and bleak--a place where "hard led to harder" and "small arrest led to small arrest... rap sheets became résumés." When his drug dealer accidentally blows off the top of his own head, Aiden and his lifelong running buddy, haunted Afghan vet Thad, steal the dealer's guns, cash and dope. Despite their big score, matters only get worse. Violence marches through The Weight of This World, but underneath it, Aiden and Thad are two beat-down human beings who still maintain a loyal friendship and muster as much hope as they can find. As Aiden tells Thad, "I ain't all right with just getting by." There may not be much joy in Joy's mountain world, but he tells a hell of a story. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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