Welcome to the country town of Loveland, where "people from all over mail in their valentines so they can have a Loveland postmark", and where the locals spend their days drinking at the bar, riding bulls in rodeos, or fishing. Meet Maggie and her sister CJ and her brother Tibs who were orphaned when their archeologist parents died in a plane crash when Maggie was 16. As the oldest, CJ was charged with raising them. Now wanting children of her own, CJ finds she is infertile. In any event, she is in a dead-end relationship with fellow bartender Peter.
Maggie falls for charismatic Jackdaw from the first moment she sees him riding a bull. When he dislocates his shoulder and moves in with Tibs, Maggie and Jackdaw are brought closer together. However, CJ takes an instant dislike to him. Are her feelings justified?
While Maggie helps Jackdaw write his great American novel, Jackdaw's perception of her changes. He comes to resent her and often gets the unreasonable urge to hit her, just as his father used to hit his mother. Nevertheless, Jackdaw feels compelled to marry Maggie when she becomes pregnant. When baby Jes is born with spina bifida, Maggie remains optimistic and vows to be "the perfect mother", but Jackdaw blames Maggie for trapping him. And as Jes' condition worsens and Jackdaw's tolerance reaches breaking point, tragedy is bound to strike.
Deep Down Things is a heartbreaking account of one family's struggles to come to grips with both past and present tragedies. It is told alternately from the points-of-view of Maggie, her sister CJ, her brother Tibs, and Tibs' friend Jackdaw. This allows us to follow each character's story and is especially effective during the book's climactic scene, which we get to see from all four points-of-view.
Throughout the book, the author uses an extended metaphor centering on Jesus: the names "CJ" (as opposed to "JC"; her real name is also "Cleopatra" who is rumored to have fathered Jesus with Julius Caesar), "Maggie" (short for "Magdalene"), "Tibs" (short for "Tiberius", the name of the Roman emperor in power at the time of Jesus' crucifixion), and "Jes" (short form of "Jesus"); Jackdaw's comparison of Maggie to the Virgin Mary; the story of the bum who walks into CJ's bar; references to The Life of Brian; and the parallel of Maggie not being able to help Jes, just as Mary was unable to help Jesus on the cross.
By far, the author's greatest talent is her beautiful eye for detail. She has the remarkable ability to paint a picture with just a few choice words. She does this both in the way she perfectly portrays all four of her narrators, as well as in the way she describes the scenery. It's obvious she loves this land and knows it well.
Deep Down Things shares some similarities in theme to the author's previous book, How to Be a Man. In my review for that book, I stated that this author is a talent to watch. Well, now I'm watching her even more closely because I don't want to miss a thing.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, domestic violence, gay and lesbian themes, alcohol abuse.
I received this book in return for an honest review.