The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

The Bottoms


Four stars****
If I had to sum this book up with one phrase it would be... The loss of innocence. This book stirred up similar emotions that I felt while watching the movie "Stand by Me" so long ago. (I think I may have just aged myself a little there) And yes, it is similar in nature to the plot of "To Kill a Mockingbird". Sometimes as children we witness images or events that change who we are and force us to look at life differently from everyone else. And that is what happens to Harry and his little sister Tom growing up in The Bottoms during the great depression of the 1930's.
Women are being murdered in grizzly ways in The Bottoms and unfortunately Harry happened upon one of these bodies as he was wandering out in the woods. Death is something that Harry witnesses all of the time in regards to animals but this is different in that it was cruel and his curiosity over who or what could do this starts a chain reaction of him growing up really fast. He and his sister think it could be the notorious Goat Man that has been known to live in the woods. But, as the story progresses the who or what it could be keeps you turning the pages. This quote sums up life for Harry in The Bottoms and how he feels about death:

"Another thing different then was you learned about things like dying when you were quite young. It couldn't be helped. You raised and killed chickens and hogs, hunted and fished, so you were constantly up against it. That being the case, I think we respected life more than some do now, and useless suffering was not to be tolerated."

And that is why I think this event changes Harry so deeply... it was a useless death and useless suffering. To know that there are things or people out there who are capable of such cruelty is a scary realization.
The one part of this story that touched me the most were the events surrounding his dog Toby. Gosh, anyone who has ever loved a dog will certainly be affected by this scene. And, yes that was me! Tragic events are hard to bear for anyone we love whether it's two legs or four!
There were some elements that were a little disturbing for me... especially the descriptions of the dead bodies. And, it always bothers me a little to be reminded of the deep seeded racism that occurred in our ugly past. But, at the same time you appreciate the courage it took for some individuals to challenge this racism head on despite the danger and consequences they would face. And we met some of these type individuals in this book.
Harry is an old man now and he tells this story as he reflects on the events that take place during his childhood... and even though he has long since moved on from the events that took place they are still very much a part of who is his... so, I'll wrap up this review with this final quote from Harry:

"Each time I visit now, close my eyes to go there, I hope when I awake I will no longer be of this world, but one where Mama and Daddy, Tom and Grandma, perhaps even Mose and the Goat Man, and of course good old Toby, will be waiting for me."

Sometimes we just want to go back...
 
K~

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