What drew me to Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch were not the uniformly great reviews for this, or Clinch's debut novel Finn, but rather the documentary I viewed almost 20 years ago from which the novel was based. My Brother's Keeper featured four illiterate brothers living in rural upstate New York, the death of one brother and subsequent murder charge against another. My recollection is of a black and white film, but this memory may be more my sense of atmosphere than reality. The men lived in abject poverty and much of the footage is shot in the dark, dreary months of winter. What I remember most is a school bus filled roof high with Holstein yearlings and manure, and a dog chained to his house running half circles in his well-worn rut.
Clinch softens these scenes, but he hammers home the brothers' bleak, interdependent existence with unrelenting and descriptive narrative; a satisfying study of the complexities of simple men.
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