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Review: Knockemstiff (Donald Ray Pollock)

Title: Knockemstiff
Author: Donald Ray Pollock
Genre: Adult short stories
Pages: 203
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Challenges: Reading from my Shelves
FTC Disclosure: My brother gave me this book as a present
Summary (from the back of the book): In this unforgettable work of fiction, Donald Ray Pollock peers in tot he soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents. Knockemstiff is a genuine entry into the literature of place. Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories that comprise Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring characters who are irresistibly, undeniably real. A father pumps his son full of steroids so he can vicariously relive his days as a perpetual runner-up body builder. A psychotic rural recluse comes upon two siblings committing incest and feels compelled to take action.

Review: I am not really sure how to review this book. My brother thought it was so good he bought me and copy (and, I think he also gave my dad a copy). I can see how it would appeal to a certain reading audience, but I am not sure that I am in that group. I didn't dislike the book, it just isn't my type of thing.

I did like that the short stories were all connected since they take place in the town of Knockemstiff, Ohio (the author's real home town, by the way). Some characters show up in more than one story, which I also liked.

But here's how to sum up the book. All the stories include the following:

  • Poor and rural people
  • People who are undedicated and ignorant
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Incest, sex, rape, and more sex
  • F-bombs. I cannot say this enough
Though the stories weren't really my type of thing, they were really well written. I got a feeling for Knockemstiff and could really picture the people and the place (talk about a geography connection!). The author has a way with words and can really tell an amazing story.

Geography Connection
(photo credit for the Knockemstiff home)

Click to see my updated Google Map. Knockemstiff, Ohio. Wow. As I said above, the author did a fantastic job of showing what the town is like, both through the actions of the characters and through the descriptions of the town. Actually, the book made me want to drive through Knockemstiff to see how much the author exaggerated the place.

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