Review: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (March 27, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0316188433
  • Source: Publisher (Netgalley)

The body of May Lynn is found by her friends, a beautiful young girl with aspirations of going to Hollywood to become an actress.  She was found in the Sabine River, her body weighed down by a Singer sewing machine. The friends that discover her body include Sue Ellen, a strong-willed, spitfire of a girl, Terry and Jinx.

The unlikely group of friends come up with a plan to dig up May Lynn’s body, burn it to ash, and travel to Hollywood to spread them. To do so, they steal a raft and sail down the river, joined by Sue Ellen’s alcoholic mother.  Their journey is not an easy one, however. Their last step before leaving town is stealing money May Lynn wrote about in her diary, money that is being sought after by her enemies.

One such enemy has hired Skunk, a man Sue Ellen only thought was a story to frighten children at night. He was so evil own parents didn’t want him, his father cut out his tongue and his mother attempted to drown him. He earns his name due to the smell that lingers around him.  He cuts off the hands of his victims, carving the shape of a skunk in their foreheads. Now this horrid individual is after Sue Ellen and her friends.

The journey to spread their friends ashes is more than just a trek to fulfill their friend’s dreams, but a means to escaping a less than desirable life. Sue Ellen and her mother are surrounded by abuse at the hands of the man whom Sue Ellen thought was her father. Terry questions his sexuality, taunted by others as being a sissy.  Jinx is the outcast in a group, a young African American girl.

Along their journey, they come across a whole host of quirky characters, truly expanding upon an already character-rich novel. Each of the characters who embark upon this journey undergo a pretty tremendous period of growth and personal rediscovery. Edge of Dark Water is a novel that transcends genres, guaranteed to entice readers of Southern literature, thrillers, as well as horror.

I agree completely with those readers who compare Lansdale’s writing with that of two of literature’s finest authors: Mark Twain and Stephen King. I think of this novel as the perfect combination of Huckleberry Finn and Stand By Me. Lansdale’s world building is truly impressive, the setting of the Sabine a character itself, a representation of the journey each of the runaways embark upon.

A theme inherent in this novel is the idea of punishment for bad actions. In nearly every case, characters who perform a bad act or crime are eventually punished for this action. The recipients of this punish span both sides, both good and bad; no one is immune.

Shockingly, this is my first experience with reading Lansdale’s work, but I guarantee it will not be my last. Highly recommended.

 

4 thoughts on “Review: Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

  1. If you loved Edge, you absolutely have to read The Bottoms (if you can fit it into your schedule, of course :?). It’s one of my all time favorites. I love Lansdale’s writing, and I think Edge of Dark Water is just the type of novel that should gain him a lot of new fans.

    • You’re probably the fifth person who has recommended The Bottoms to me, so I’m definitely going to make time to read it!

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