There are most likely many reasons why this book was a finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-Williams Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, but I detect much of Faulkner’s work to be inspired by setting and the often bumpy plight of the protagonist. There’s less attention to setting in Coles’ novel, but quite a bit of struggle on behalf of Darwin, the appropriately named protagonist, as he stumbles around familial and personal decay.
Throughout the entire novel, Coles does well with characterization. Even in the most mundane of situations, his command of dialogue and characters make the scene pop for the reader’s imagination. Even the characters you won’t like – you’ll still want to read about them. Again – that is the prowess of Coles’ writing style. I appreciated it and I think all readers of recent fiction will as well.
Finally, the overall plot (series of events) and themes (main ideas) are at once approachable and complex. Coles’ characterization and prose are never written in condescending style to the reader – as I’ve seen in a lot of recent fiction. There’s no snark, just truth, and that goes a long way in the professional standards I hold for excellent modern storytelling.
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