Maddy's Reviews > Edge of Dark Water

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
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's review
Sep 02, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012-reads, tops, 2013-reads
Read in January, 2013

PROTAGONIST: Sue Ellen Wilson
SETTING: Depression era East Texas
SERIES: Standalone

Have you ever finished reading a book and found yourself having to fall back in your chair and take a deep breath while you marvel at its wonderfulness? That’s what happened to me when I read EDGE OF DARK WATER; moreover, I felt that somehow it had become part of my very being. I was amazed to find myself loving EDGE so much. It’s been a few years since I’ve had that experience; I feared that I had become a cynical and critical reader and was very happy to be proved wrong.

Sue Ellen Wilson is a 16 year old whose family life is quite dysfunctional. Her mother spends most of her time in bed, as she is addicted to a potion called a “cure all”. Her stepdaddy is a drunk who regularly beats her mother. Sue Ellen has to lock and barricade her bedroom door to resist his advances. She has two best friends—Jinx, who is a feisty black girl, and Terry, a well-spoken “sissy” (gay) boy. When one of their acquaintances, May Lynn, is murdered, they decide that they will fulfill one of her dreams by cremating her and taking her ashes to Hollywood. They plan to travel by raft to a nearby town and take the bus from there, thereby eluding their kin, who are intent on taking some money that had been buried by May Lynn’s dead brother and found by our intrepid trio. Getting away from their unhappy living circumstances is a nice side benefit.

Sue Ellen’s mother unexpectedly joins the group. Their journey is fraught with adventure. The worst trouble is not from the miserable lot of husbands, fathers and uncles searching for them. Their greatest danger comes from a legendary woods creature named “Skunk”. They are uncertain whether he really exists; supposedly, he enjoys torturing his victims and chops off their hands as keepsakes.

Joe Lansdale is a master story teller. Usually I prefer a straightforward narrative and don’t have much patience for digressions. That wasn’t the case for EDGE; I found each of them to be interesting in its own right, whether an accounting of the Oklahoma dust storms by a homeless family or the sad story of Skunk. This book reminded me quite a bit of two of Lansdale’s other standalones, THE BOTTOMS and A FINE DARK LINE. Each of these books was set in Depression-era East Texas, and each was narrated by a young person. The dialogue was pitch perfect, and the characters wonderfully drawn.

EDGE OF DARK WATER is the rare book that I have given an A+ rating to. I know that it is not a flawless work, but I didn’t care about that at all. It met all my criteria for a great read, and it won’t be a book that I forget. Now I can only hope to have this experience again before a few more years pass!

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message 1: by Lou (new) - rated it 5 stars

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