Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Thicket by Joe R Lansdale - Book Review

" To some extent I find sin like coffee. When I was young and had my first taste of it I found it bitter and nasty, but later on I learned to like it by putting a little milk in it, and then I learned to like it black. Sin is like that. You sweeten it a little with lies, and then you get so you can take it straight." - The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

You know those books that pop up on your TBR list and leave you racking your brain trying to figure out how the world it landed on your list? That is totally this book for me! I have no earthly idea where I got the recommendation to read this book, but it made it not just onto my TBR list, but all the way onto my library holds list ( a competitive place to be!)- and so, here we are! "The Thicket" was definitely unlike any book I have read lately, and reminded me of "True Grit" meets "The Wizard of Oz" - kind of? Keep reading to learn more about my experience reading "The Thicket" by Joe R. Lansdale.

Check out my video review of "The Thicket" below or keep reading for my thoughts on this historical fiction novel.

The Thicket
Joe R. Landsdale

goodreads // amazon // library

Jack Parker thought he'd already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas--orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula. Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle's farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack's grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who's come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack's extended family to boot).  In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place. Oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. But as Jack's about to find out, blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, award-winning novelist Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Gritand Stand by Me--the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called "as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm--or Mark Twain" - (Amazon.com)

Book Review and Discussion of 
"The Thicket" by Joe R. Lansdale

Wonderful humor, writing

Thankfully I went into this book knowing nothing about it, because I'm not sure I would've picked it up knowing the premise. The plot of "The Thicket" sounds silly - a boy searching for his kidnapped sister with the help of a midget, a former prostitute, and a grave digger. And at times it felt- but it also totally works, which is a huge credit to the author, Joe R Lansdale. He does an excellent job introducing each of the characters and builds a world where this combination of people felt natural to me as a reader. The main character, Jack, is a sixteen year old boy trying to get help where he can to rescue his sister Lula from her kidnappers, and despite the groups rag tag appearance, it actually seems like they might have a chance.  There were moments in "The Thicket" where I was struck by how smart and funny the book was- it has a dry humor, but the humor was definitely there!

Some strange moments, too

For the most part, I loved the writing style of "The Thicket". I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Jack and Shorty, the midget. He takes on a father figure type role as they wander Texas searching for Lula, and it was heartwarming and insightful. Anyway, I'd be trucking along reading and enjoying - and then the very next paragraph I would be *completely* taken out of the book when that same humor and insightfulness took a bizarre turn. As you can imagine, with three men walking alone at the turn of the century, their humor was at times crude. And my distaste for that kind of humor generally, just turned me off from the book. I found myself just hoping that the conversation would end soon. The feeling reminded me of the frustration I felt reading George Saunders, "Lincoln in the Bardo" - an excellent book I absolutely loved, *but* the crude humor just took me out of the story, which was a bummer.

A test of patience

I really enjoyed the first third of "The Thicket". The pacing of the story was just right, the characters were well introduced as the world that jack Parker lived in in the early 1900s in Texas was built. And then they all set off on the trail, and *omg* - for most of the rest of the book I really struggled with the pacing. You know how they say life is about the journey, not the destination- yeah, as a reader, it is kind of about the destination- and this book was really trying my patience for that. After a hundred pages of wandering around Texas, with little excitement, I just kept feeling this overwhelming- hurry up and find his gosh darn sister- feeling. I kept hoping that they would at least find a clue or I don't know, something! The action of the book was squeezed into the last twenty or so pages and getting there felt like a bit of a chore. While I enjoyed much of the authors writing, just know that the middle chunk of this book feels really long, and you may not feel like the ending was worth the wait.

I enjoyed reading "The Thicket" by Joe Lansdale, but because of my frustrations with the pacing and bizarre humor, I gave this book 3/5 stars.  

Have you read "The Thicket"? Let me know what you thought of the book below! Thinking about picking this book up? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click below to view the book on Amazon.


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