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The End of California by Steve Yarbrough
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The End of California

by Steve Yarbrough

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I read one of Steve Yarbrough's earlier novels, The Oxygen Man, years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, and decided to go back and back to read this one because I'm eagerly anticipating his new novel, The Realm of Last Chances, which is due out in August. I'm so glad I did. From the outset, the characters are so interesting and the inciting incident establishes a marvelously intriguing premise. A doctor is on the run from California with his family because of some scandal. He is heading to his hometown of Loring, Mississippi where decades earlier he was the high school football hero and the center of another scandal, when he slept with a classmate's mother.

That classmate has spent years dealing with the aftermath of that age-inappropriate affair, which caused his father to walk out on him and his mother, but now the son has his life is in order as he manages the town grocery store and serves as a deacon in his church. The arrival of his old nemesis upsets the apple cart, though, and even more unbearable is the fact that his son and the former football hero's daughter become boyfriend and girlfriend. These circumstances set a lot of wheels in motion. The story is told from the multiple perspectives of Pete Barrington, the doctor/football hero, his daughter, his wife, and Alan, the grocery story manger, and his son, who plays on the high school football team, and for which Pete decides to serve as an assistant coach. Every one of the characters is interesting and fully realized. Midway through a crime takes place (which I won't give away), but the novel, while becoming more suspenseful, doesn't turn into a genre story or fall into the predictable plotting of a crime novel. It remains a rich character study, showing how all the characters react to and suffer from that event.

For the past few years, I've been trying to read new novels in the year they come out, but I'm so glad I went back to the well for this one. As a reader, it's great to be in the hands of a truly talented writer, and in my mind Yarbrough pulls off every element of this story in masterful fashion. ( )
  johnluiz | Aug 6, 2013 |
My blog post about this book is at this link . ( )
  SuziQoregon | Mar 31, 2013 |
I found it so hard to like this story. This has nothing to do with the writing of Steve Yarmouth who does an excellent job of portraying life in Loring, a small town in Mississipi. It has everything to do with the cast of characters, none of whom I cared for at all.

Pete Barrington, a high school football hero and a doctor, returns to Mississippi from Fresno, California, where he attended college, set up his medical practice, married, and began a family. Now back in his former hometown, he encounters Alan DePoyster, a man with a grudge to bear against Pete. Neither have much to do with one another until they both become aware that Steve's daughter Toni, now herself in high school, is dating Alan's son Mason. This situation brings feelings that were deeply buried to the forefront once again in the two fathers.

This is the gritty writing about the American south that makes me never want to visit its rural towns again! I'd hate to meet "puffed-up" Steve or devoutly religious Alan in real life. Nor would I like to encounter black and white individuals who so liberally sprinkle their everyday conversations with the N-word. I know the south is not entirely composed of the characters of this book, but Yarbrough makes it feel as if it is because he does so well portraying the rougher side of small town life. If nice characters are not your concern, you may want to give this novel a try. ( )
1 vote SqueakyChu | Jan 13, 2012 |
This is one of the best books I have read in ages. He writes about people and Mississippi like john Hart writes about North Carolina! ( )
  judithrs | Feb 8, 2009 |
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"Loring is the sort of town children dream of leaving and most adults return to only in the absence of better options. But after twenty-five years Pete Barrington - having escaped to California on a football scholarship and then established himself as a doctor, only to be brought low by scandal - has come home. Here he finds solace with his closest old friend, opens a new practice, and daily runs into memories he'd rather forget, even as his aggravated wife and unsettled daughter contend with this wholly alien society." "Meanwhile, Alan DePoyster has come to revel in his family life and his position in the church and community - the sort of idyll snatched away from him in childhood and won back only with patience and faith. Yet he now feels old grudges against the prodigal Barrington eroding his sense of accomplishment; and as their lives inevitably become intertwined, his rage against the forces chiseling away at his values and beliefs soon threatens to destroy everything he cherishes." "The End of California is a vivid, even shocking, portrait of small-town life, where people turn to booze, gossip, and feckless sex in their struggles with provincial claustrophobia, where fates often hang in the balance of personal history, and where the sins of the fathers and mothers are visited most acutely on their sons and daughters."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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