Top positive review
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ONE OF THE BEST WRITTEN NOVELS I'VE EVER READ!!!
on 19 August 2001
I've been aware of Joe R. Lansdale as a writer of short stories and novels for over fifteen years; but, until a few days ago, I'd never read anything by him. I'm not sure what drew me to THE BOTTOMS. Maybe it was the fact that this novel won the Edgar Award for 2000, or possibly it was the large number of positive reviews that were written about it. Whatever the reason, my curiosity was peaked to the extent that I wanted to read the novel now, in hardcover, rather than wait another month for the Trade paperback to come out. I wasn't even sure if I'd like the book; yet, I felt compelled to buy it. Now, let me say that over the last forty-two years, I've probably read somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 novels. Though there have been hundreds of books I've enjoyed over the years, few have managed to capture my heart and soul in such a way as to leave me with a profound sense of what it means to be a human being. This is a rare experience, but when it happens, I know that it's something that will stay with me for many years to come. THE BOTTOMS by Joe R. Lansdale is one of those miracles of writing that had such an affect, and what troubles me is that only a small audience of people is actually aware of this book. I hope my review will help alleviate this to a certain degree. THE BOTTOMS is the story of eleven-year-old Harry Crane and the tragedy that transpired between the years of 1933 and 34 in the small East Texas town of Marvel Creek. It began on a normal summer day when Harry and his younger sister, Thomasina, were out hunting squirrels along the Bottoms with their dog, Toby, and accidentally discovered the tortured body of a dead black woman. On their way back home to get their father, Jacob, who is the town's constable, they are stalked through the darken woods by something or someone that could be the legendary Goat Man. The two kids make it back home safe and sound, but just barely. When Jacob Crane is told about the body, he recovers it the next day and begins an investigation that few white people seem to care about. Eventually more bodies are discovered and the town realizes that it has a demented killer within its midst. It isn't, however, until a woman, who is partially black and white, is murdered that the "good" citizens of Marvel Creek decide to take matters into their own hands. Because of a careless error on Jacob's part, an innocent man is lynched, and he must come to grips with the totality of his mistake, as well as his failure to stop the hanging. It's a burden that can weigh heavily on the shoulders of a decent person. As the killings continue and someone very special to young Harry is brutally murdered, he and his sister take it upon themselves to solve the mystery of the Goat Man and find out who the killer really is. Of course, the killer knows that the two Crane children are hunting him and has plans of his own for dealing with them in a very special way. THE BOTTOMS is a morality tale in the grandest sense, dealing with the deep roots of racism and how people can close their eyes to prejudice and injustice. It's also a story about life itself and how human beings (both and bad) choose to live it, probing the emotions of guilt and shame like an open wound, while at the same time depicting heart-felt acts of courage and redemption. Filled with difficult questions concerning love, friendship, what its means to be a man, and doing the right thing when the odds are clearly stacked against you, Mr. Lansdale offers no easy answers and doesn't pull his punches when delving into the dark side of human nature. All of the characters in this novel resonate with a life force of their own, luring the reader into their world, making you believe each and every word that's written. I was there at night, in the woods, when the Goat Man stalked Harry and Thomasina, feeling their terror in the pit of my stomach. I breathed in the close friendships that Harry had with old man Mose and Miss Maggie, not to mention the schoolboy crush he had on his beautiful teacher, Mrs. Canerton. I raged and then wept when Jacob and Harry were beaten down to the ground by the lynch mob, knowing the anguish they felt at not being able to stop what was about to happen. And, I trembled in fear at the final confrontation between a young boy and a human monster, understanding that bravery often comes with the risk of death. THE BOTTOMS isn't a novel that can be read and then put away, but one that readers will live and feel to the very core of their being. This book is Joe R. Lansdale's masterpiece, as well as his breakout novel into mainstream fiction. It deserves to be recognized on a much wider scale, and I sincerely hope that those who read it and love the book as much as I do will pass the word.