Trudi's Reviews > All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale
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's review
Oct 21, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: a-sense-of-place, historical, love-the-title, the-wonder-years, on-my-kobo, 2012, prose-that-sings, modern-lit
Read from April 21 to 29, 2012

3.5 stars
It was hard to remember when all the earth hadn't been thrown to the sky.
This is my first Lansdale but I've known about him for quite some time. He's one of those authors who mixes up genres in crazy, imaginative ways and writes equally strong across the spectrum of storytelling styles (including gobs of graphic novels). I know him as a horror writer because his name always shows up for the Bram Stoker Awards and he just received the Horror Writer's Association Lifetime Achievement Award. I also know him to be the author of the novella "Bubba Ho-Tep" (available from Amazon for 0.99 cents!) If you haven't seen the film this inspired, don't wait! It has Elvis and JFK in a nursing home ... and an ancient Egyptian mummy!

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky (great title) doesn't have anything so wild and wacky as all that. In fact, it's a quiet little novel, short and sweet, a coming-of-age tale set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Hardest hit is Oklahoma, resulting in such a huge migration of desperate people from that state they became known as "Okies" (a derogatory term, not one of affection). But this isn't The Grapes of Wrath -- it's much closer to O Brother, Where art Thou?

Three young people (Jack, compulsive liar Jane and her little brother Tony) find themselves in dire, tragic circumstances -- with no family left, no home, but a stolen car, they hit the road to seek out something better. Along the way, they become entangled in some dangerous circumstances, but also make friends in unexpected places. All the while, their journey is laced with adventure and humor. I had already started thinking about "O Brother" and then Jane explains to Jack: "We're like Odysseus" and I laughed, because the whole premise of "O Brother" is that it's Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey", set in the deep south during the 1930's.

Like the Coen brothers movie, All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky is having fun, but at the same time there are moments of poignancy and underneath all the shenanigans, there is a sobering portrait of hardship and desperation.
When the wind wasn't blowing, the starving grasshoppers was coming at us in a wave so dark it blacked out the sun. And the rabbits. So many rabbits. Everything became a big mess of whirling sand, starving rabbits, and buzzing grasshoppers.
I think Steinbeck would have enjoyed this story very much.
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