Says the FBI agent investigating a murder on the Pine Ridge. He continues, "But you see, it's not flat at all." That's my reaction to this wonderful book. This book has the long view, eyepopping, like the sky overhead, and it has its shorts, up, down again, unexpected. I don't get some other comments as I read them here online. One says McNeal can't draw characters, that these are too broad...I can't believe it! I never cry when I read a book and I found myself crying several times during this novel, not because McNeal was ever melodramatic, or pulling my emotional strings, but because so many of the details were so right! Reactions to grief, reactions to the stark facts of death, reactions to love and attraction and fear, and gossip...I don't care what time people have to leave to get to the football game in Lincoln and that would probably be one detail that might matter to a Nebraskan, but I am one, and I was past caring. This is a real book, by someone I suspect is a very keen and caring listener, so generous it made my heart swell when he wrote so truely, and compassionately; it made me question my own reactions to the rural people I've known in my life, and judged. One reviewer here says that these kind of events would take generations; what do we have in the twisting evolution of characters' lives but those very generations? Those incidents can and do happen and I know they do because I've lived them.
To those who say this is not a novel, I say shame on you, especially if you are a writer. This book clearly follows the fates of Randall and Marcy, and if you don't realize how other characters come along for the ride in life, then you are not living. This novel is more real than most I've read in a long time....why? Because the writer knows that time is not always as linear as we want it to be, even as Lewis wants it to be, looking at the barest outline of Randall's life to that moment; we want to think so, but thinking so is only one element that is the downfall of Lewis's own marriage.
The shifting points-of-view show McNeal's compassion and his feeling, his genuine concern for his characters. No one in a small town really wants to know what a person feels inside, they want to know the plots and the incidents, hungry for tragedy and perversion, at times even making up what can't be known. In the face of the deepest secrets, the deepest tragedies, however, there is a spirit which rises over all of it, maybe the luckiest of us could call it grace. Tom McNeal write with a great deal of grace.
I read this book with two boys crawling all over me. I took breaks only to feed them, to cuddle or answer their barest needs, and once in a while, I looked over the pages to relish the love and joy I feel for them. This book prompts that kind of reflectiveness. It also kept pulling me right along. It may not be a typically plotted story, but it is the BEST I've read in quite a while.
You don't have to know anything about Nebraska to love this book. If you love "unfrayed" storylines (whatever that might be), read Danielle Steele. If you want to read about real people, with real feelings, real hearts, real tragedies, and real living among all of that, you will want to read this book. It is not a farewell at evening, or the leave-taking, that the title suggests, but a place you want to spend a few hours, a good night, Nebraska or anywhere else in the world with a beating heart.