In the country-noir tradition of Winter’s Bone meets ‘Breaking Bad,’ a savage and beautiful story of a young man seeking redemption.
The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.
Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when a fatal mistake changes everything, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.” – Goodreads
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy is one knockout of a novel. No joke, y’all – Joy absolutely hit it out of the park with this one. Just reading the title and book summary got me all giddy and ready for a deep down, dirty heartache of a read and that is exactly what I got. I already cannot wait to read this baby again! That said, it is difficult to share the impact this book had on me without revealing spoilers galore, when so much of what makes it stand out from the crowd is that final sock to the gut that Joy tosses in at the end. You’d think a smart girl like myself would have seen it coming. Um, no. By the time we’ve reached the climax, Joy has readers so mesmerized by the first actual slice of hope in the entire novel that we’re completely blindsided by the humdinger he’s been setting us up for, like suckers, all along.
But let’s back up a bit. Eighteen-year-old Jacob McNeely was raised by his drug-dealing father and has minimal contact with his meth-head mother. As you can imagine, the emotional landscape at home is a bit lacking, and no one really notices when he drops out of high school in the tenth grade. Everyone in his small town has a preconceived notion of who Jacob is and what his future holds – knowing this, Jacob has dutifully prepared himself for a life of fulfilling all of those low expectations. The one person in Jacob’s corner is his childhood friend/high school girlfriend, Maggie Jennings. Maggie sees the good in Jacob, the things that he just can’t bring himself to believe exist, and when he parts ways with high school, he parts ways with her as well – telling himself that she deserves more than him dragging her down with him.
Jacob’s daddy works hard to bring him into “the business,” manipulating him and giving him odd jobs from the time he was small, holding on to his “pay” with the promise that someday he’d receive the money in bulk. When things take a wrong turn and Jacob becomes trapped in what he feels is a hopeless situation, he allows his father to push him deeper and deeper into the pit until he’s so far in that he begins to push back. When unexpected help shows up, Jacob leaps blindly at his chance for salvation. Key word: blindly. For this is when Joy slips in his sucker punch, and for this I will resent him forever, even though I should have known better in the first place.
I’m sure most authors don’t like to be compared to others; they likely want to make a name for themselves. But I have to do it… Joy’s writing reminded me so much of one of my absolute favorite authors, Ron Rash. That stark, unforgiving Appalachian landscape. The harsh and gritty look at reality. The futility and uselessness of hope. And – always – that dark, dark, irony. It’s all here in Where the Light Tends to Grow, y’all, and Joy whips it into a powerful novel that will positively wreck you. This is one of the strongest debuts I’ve read, and trust me when I say that you do not want to miss it. Go and get you some today.
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy: Read it today!
Source: Personal Library