Book Review: The Line That Held Us by David Joy


Go on, ask me about my favorite book I have read this year, and I could list too many. In fact, I am often asked this question and find myself pausing for the listener to write down several books. When my dad asked me this question, I knew that I had to renew my library copy of this book to put it right in his hands.

The Line That Held Us by David Joy takes a deep look at Appalachian culture and provides readers with a novel cultivated from the mountains and the [metaphoric and literal] dirt of a small town. The first chapter is centered around Darl Moody's hunting trip where he trespasses to kill the big one, but instead, mistakenly bags "Sissy" Brewer. Not only is this a big mistake that could land him in jail, it is one that could cost him his life. The novel unfolds around Dwayne Brewer and Calvin Hooper as homegrown justice is served without consideration of law and order.

The word "feud" does not put this story into perspective. Joy writes what he knows, and he knows Appalachian culture. The book is set in Jackson County, North Carolina and paints a stark picture of the landscape and atmosphere of the setting. Reader's can't help but notice the language Joy uses when crafting dialogue reminiscent of the table-talk and front-porch-swinging evenings at grandma's house. Just when I thought Joy towed the line of stereotype, I was reminded of a relative who would say or act in just the same way as the character being read in the novel.

I was hooked from the first page as Joy reeled me into the storyline and characterization. The tension is palpable and keeps readers on edge almost as if we are in the deer stand waiting on the big buck ourselves. Dwayne Brewer is honestly as frightening as your long-lost uncle you wouldn't dare double-cross. You know, the one you would be afraid of taking out into public because of what he would say to someone else. The first scene in Walmart was enough to make my jaw have to be picked up from the floor, put back together, and crammed back into my own mouth just to have it ripped from the socket again. Most of us have experienced fine examples of individuals like Brewer in public but even our own experiences lack the characterization that Joy's book subtly provides for its readers. There were times when I was honestly afraid for Calvin Hooper for the simple fact that he was trapped in a situation he had no business being in.

Joy depicts Appalachian culture without oversimplifying characters to barefoot hillbillies who are careless of relationships and knowledge. Growing up in the North Georgia mountains, I have experienced the ridicule that a culture mistaken has placed upon myself and other Appalachian people. I remember my own father once telling me to be proud of the hills I call home. Joy reflects this mentality in his writings and interviews encouraging individuals to reconsider the stereotypes through culture, literature, and experience.

I would recommend this book to readers who are not offended by profanity and can handle violence. It is not a book for everyone, but it is a book I am glad to have read and shared with my own father (who now wants to read Joy's other books).

I hope to attend a reading by David Joy in the future and will be heading out to a bookstore soon to purchase his other novels.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐3/4

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