Book Review – East of Denver

East of DenverEast of Denver by Gregory Hill

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

When I first started reading this book, I thought “Brilliant! I’m going to give it five stars! I love character-driven novels and these characters are so compelling! They remind me of people down home in southern Illinois. They’re lovely and charming and unique and frustrating and annoying and so heartbreakingly real. Oh, this is going to be such a lovely relaxing read with more depth than action, and a nice break from the suspense and horror I’ve been reading lately!”

When I got about halfway through this book, I thought, “Hmmm. Okay, maybe only four stars. While I appreciate the delicacy that’s used to outline these characters in their day to day life, it’s starting to get a bit tedious. Just how many doorknobs can you fix, anyway?”. At that point, I’d forgotten that I’d read the back cover of the book – I know, I know, but it really is possible.

So, when the main character suddenly decides to rob his hometown bank, I literally sat up in bed, where I’d been reading in hopes of reading my overstimulated brain to sleep, and said “Oh my god!” and got poked by a mostly sleeping husband who was rather annoyed. So I took the book out to the sofa, because I knew then and there that I would not be sleeping until I finished it. That is also why I’m writing this review at almost two thirty in the morning.

As the book went on, I found myself ever more frustrated and confused by the choices some of the characters make. In some places, I had issues with suspension of disbelief and actually rolled my eyes. I decided about three-quarters of the way through the book that I was only going to give it a three-star review, because some of it was driving me crazy, and I wondered at some points if now the author was just playing a joke on me. What happened to my sweet little character driven before-bed book?

And then, as I finished the book and realized I desperately didn’t want it to end, and that it had kept me incredibly engaged, I knew that three stars just wasn’t enough. It deserved four for the sharply drawn characters, the lyrical prose, and the story that kept me awake and drawn to this book until I pushed through to the end of it. It is lovely and sweet in places, raw and unforgiving in others. It takes a hard look at antipathy and what entropy can do to a life, and a world, and a home. It’s fascinating and riveting, and worth reading.

*Book received at no cost through Goodreads First Reads program

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