Donald Ray Pollock shows the worst in the lives of the people from Knockemstiff: their bad decisions, their vices, their worse weaknesses… But, he doesn’t judge them. All characters have human motivations and fears. A lot of fears.
At first, I didn’t like the book. It was extremely dark, and I saw a form of unhealthy voyeurism in the way Pollock dug in the worst aspects of life in middle of nowhere America.
But, after reading all these different stories and seeing how Pollock shows that his characters are stuck in a life that they never chose fighting a terrible destiny that everybody can forecast with no difficulty, I saw the empathy that Pollock has for each of them. It would have been easy to just push the reader to hate the bad guys or feel sorry for the poor victims, but the author rarely choose the easy way and will you make feel empathy for the worst asshole and hope for the most hopeless drunkard.
I recommend this book. It rings true.