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The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
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The Devil All the Time (2011)

by Donald Ray Pollock

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5143619,733 (3.98)42
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  1. 10
    Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Though one is set in Appalachia and one in the Ozarks, both are dark, gritty, Southern noir novels that immerse readers fully in the depravity that comes along with desperate poverty in these regions of the country.
  2. 00
    Avenue des Géants by Marc Dugain (olyvia)
  3. 00
    Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  4. 00
    Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Another Noirish crime novel set in Appalachia.
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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Not a book with fairy tales and happy endings.

This book shows the darkness that can linger in people's souls.


Willard Russell believes if he and his son Arvin pray over his "prayer log" long enough it can save his doomed wife Charlotte from the cancer ravaging her body. It might now be enough to just pray alone though..so he adds some sacrificial blood.

So begins this tale. Setting in rural Ohio and West Virginia. Pollock shows the side of poor rural life that I hope to never see.

The characters in this book do come to life. In order to send chills down your spine and sweep you into their lives. The author writes beautifully and I do hope to see more from him. I love this type of dark disturbing story.



The man nodded and stared out the window. "It's hard to live a good life," he said. "It seems like the Devil don't ever let up."

After reading this I looked at the author's bio. He worked 30 years in a papermill in a rural area. That old adage write what you know? I still have chills up my back. ( )
  bookqueenshelby | Sep 9, 2014 |
Ughhh fuckoff. this is supposed to be something called "american gothic" but there's not enough psychological insight to make the ugliness real and interesting and not enough surrealism or symbolic resonance or atmosphere to make it compelling in any actual gothic or Jungo-mytho-oneiric-archetypal or similar sense. (That would be especially hard because Pollock is ostensibly selling an I-was-a-coal-miner-meself authenticity, but the unrelenting bloodlust and perversity in this book is cartoonishly inauthentic.) Everyone is horrible, everyone suffers, real good old-time Bible-belt self-flagellation stuff. It's pornography, in short. ( )
  MeditationesMartini | Aug 24, 2014 |
Yes, Donald Ray Pollock sounds like a serial killer, but fortunately he is just a superb author, who creates stories about serial killers, along with an array of other wayward and unsavory characters.
Set in southern Ohio and West Virginia and spanning the years after WWII and into the 60s, it features Willard Russell, a tortured war vet, a spider juggling preacher and his crippled, guitar picking sidekick, a husband and wife “kill team”, prowling the back-roads for unsuspecting hitchhikers and there are other colorful and repellent folk popping up throughout, like weeds in a field.
This style has been referred to as gothic Americana or hillbilly noir but whatever it is, Pollock, in his first novel, has crafted a dark, unsettling story about rural life, with all it's shadows and hidden fears.
Of course, this will not be for everyone, but if you have the stomach for it, it is a worthy, unforgettable ride. ( )
  msf59 | Apr 20, 2014 |
This books is fabulous. I don't even remember where I ran across it to put on my 'to-read' list.

It's one of those books that defy description. What is it about? Hard to say, except there are several lives that converge together at the end.

Awesome. Read it. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Recommended for: Fans of Faulkner, McCarthy. O'Connor

Many times while reading The Devil All the Time I thought of Flannery O'Connor, especially her "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Also, a couple of times Joyce Carol Oates's short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" came to mind. Both excellent stories, and I recommend them highly if you like The Devil All the Time. It's not so much in the way Pollock writes, he's not a copy cat, but has his own style and voice. It's more the content that reminds me of those other stories.

The novel follows the life of Arvin Russell: beginning with him and ending with him. The other characters, though initially seeming to have nothing to do with Arvin, all slowly become part of his story. I got the feeling of a drain swirling, with whatever is caught in that whirlpool moving ever closer to the center; in this case the center is Arvin. The characters are well written and the tension is pretty good and the chapters are fairly short: which means "I can get one more chapter in before I go to sleep." Then, four chapters later, I actually close the book. It kept me interested.

Pollock's novel is set in and around Knockemstiff, Ohio, which was new to me. And some of the description reminded me of Cormac McCarthy's novels set in Tennessee, especially the shorter ones, like Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, and Child of God.

I stumbled onto Donald Ray Pollock during some research for another author. I found that Pollock had won several awards and honors for his work and decided I would read something by him. I was not disappointed.

If you like the stories mentioned above, or other stories, such as The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant (recently adapted into the film Lawless), or Faulkner or McCarthy, then I would recommend The Devil All the Time. Now, that's not to say that if you don't like any of those I have mentioned, you won't like this book. The best I can say is: read it and see for yourself. ( )
  homericgeek | Feb 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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Book description
In the years following the end of World War II, Willard Russell is tormented by the horrors he witnessed in the South Pacific and fears his punishment for the lives he took is watching his wife die of cancer, while their son also deals with his own personal demons, which may be linked to a serial killer who is on the prowl in rural Ohio.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 038553504X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2011: With The Devil All the Time, author Donald Ray Pollock has crafted an exceptionally gritty, twisted page-turner. This follow-up to 2008's Knockemstiff is set in the Midwest during the mid-century, but reads more like a gothic Western. Lawlessness roams the rural, god-fearing landscape of Ohio and West Virginia, inhabitated by the likes of Pollock's deranged-yet-compelling cast of characters--a husband and wife who take vacations to murder hitchhikers, a faux preacher and his crippled accomplice on the lam for manslaughter, and an orphan with a penchant for exacting violent justice. Needless to say, The Devil All the Time is a brutal novel, but Pollock exacts the kind of precision and control over his language that keeps the violence from ever feeling gratuitous. The three storylines eventually converge in a riveting moment that will leave readers floored and haunted. --Kevin Nguyen

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:28 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There's Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can't save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his "prayer log". There's Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers, who troll America's highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There's the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte's orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right"--Jacket.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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