CBR #67 – Papa Was a Rolling Stone

The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell

The last one in the Bayou trilogy and a sweet one.  It goes backwards to go forwards.  We finally get to meet John X. Shade, The Shade Family patriarch.  He’s morosely speaking to his young daughter, a Madonna hatchlet, as he ponders his shitty fate.  His current beau, a cabaret singer in a dingy Louisiana bar, has absconded with $47,000 from a safe that belongs to a local gangster.  She’s left her daughter with John X. to pursue her singing career in Europe, where she will send for her with the Private Lear jet she intends to own very briefly.  John X. coldcocks the beefy gangster and flees with his daughter.  And of course they end up in good ol’ Saint Bruno.

Knowing Woodrell, this was coming to a bad end, and he sure damn well doesn’t honey coat it.  In fact, he rubs it in cayenne and spits tobacco juice in your mouth.  Surely the patriarch is fucked, by it’s all in the english on how Woodrell chooses to sink him.  Further complicating matters is the burgeoning relationships for the elder Shade boys.  Tip gets sweet on a pregnant hippie girl.  Rene is still courting Nicole Webb, and she finds herself pregnant.

It becomes a nice parable about the sins of the fathers and whatnot.  But it avoids getting preachy and has just the right amount of brutality and beauty to get the job done.  In another author’s hands this would have ended happily ever after or with heavier stones.  It’s a fitting end to the set.

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