Mar 7, 1:39 PM EST

Desperation & tragedy cloak everything in Joy's new novel


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"The Weight of This World" (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by David Joy

Trailers, churches and meth houses dot the Blue Ridge Mountains landscape of David Joy's latest novel, "The Weight of This World." It's here we meet Aiden McCall and Thad Broom, friends since childhood and tethered together by neglect and violence. When he was 12, Aiden watched his father murder his mother, then commit suicide. Meanwhile, Thad lived alone in a dilapidated trailer at the foot of his mother's boyfriend's property.

Now in their mid-20s, Aiden and Thad live in the same trailer and eke out a crime-ridden living stripping copper from foreclosed houses at night. Thad has recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and we learn that during his absence, Aiden fell in love with Thad's mother, April, who hauls her own wretched secrets into the narrative.

The three balance a precarious existence, but when a local meth cook accidently shoots himself in the middle of a drug deal, Aiden and Thad lay claim to his cash, guns and drugs, complicating their situation even further. The newfound wealth - plus a meth-fueled torrent of poor decisions - triggers a horrific chain of events that changes their lives forever.

Scenes unfold at a furious pace, yet contain such rich description that readers will do well to read slowly, savoring Joy's prose. Details like the smear of mud across the bare chest of a boy and the metallic sound of a gun barrel clanking against teeth fill the pages.

Joy's work perfectly aligns with the author's self-described "Appalachian noir" genre, as a sticky film of desperation and tragedy cloaks everything his characters touch. April, Aiden and Thad are hopelessly conflicted, dripping with history and heartache, yet they cling to unique dreams about what life could look like if they carried a bit less weight of the world upon their shoulders.

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