Following his release from prison, Mason Laws returns to the mountains of his youth where his estranged wife, Lavada, has been caring for his ailing father in Mason's absence. As Mason and Lavada each set forth to recover themselves, they remain entrenched in the rural and rugged landscape that bore them and their own haunted histories. This moving story tells of the families we're born into, the families we make for ourselves, and how tightly woven are the ties that bind.
“Charles Dodd White’s writing is dark, gothic and steeped in a voice that is all his own. A Shelter of Others confronts what it means to be human.” — Frank Bill, author of Donnybrook
“Charles Dodd White is one of the best young writers at work today, and A Shelter of Others is his best book yet, a quiet masterpiece in the tradition of Ron Rash and Daniel Woodrell.” — Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk
Easy to read but incredibly hard to define or review. A Shelter of Others is my first taste of Charles Dodd White’s writing but definitely not my last. He has a couple of other books to his name – Lambs of Men and the short story collection - Sinners of Sanction County, both are on the Christmas list!
We have a small cast of main characters – ex-con, Mason Laws; his failing father Sam and his wife, Lavada. Over the course of 220 pages, we uncover their pasts and present.
Sam is descending into senility. Lavada cares for him whilst juggling a part-time job at a local diner. The lonely diner’s owner, Dennis has feelings for Lavada. Mason has returned to the area but is unwilling or unable to resurrect his relationship with his wife, and instead tries to eke out an existence working for Hammond, a small-time store owner and vegetable seller.
When Laws encounters a crippled hobo - Irving and befriends him; he’s unaware that previous encounters with a vicious Deputy called Cody Gibb have already left Irving a marked man. Gibb’s actions precipitate a chain of events from which few of our cast will emerge from intact.
A Shelter of Others displays a lot of love, tenderness and kindness in the damaged relationships on offer; as well as showing the other side of the coin - indifference, cruelty and abandonment. Beautiful writing, haunting prose – I think this one will stay with me for a while.
Sam had said to her once that sadness was the price men and women paid for being good. She saw the pain that set itself in Sam, made itself adjunctive to his good heart. She wondered if the curse strong people faced was in their ability to endure too much. Or perhaps it was not even that so much as the fact that eventually others must witness what the suffering makes of what they once were.
5 from 5
A Shelter of Others was published earlier this year by Fiddleblack. Many thanks to Jason – editor at Fiddleblack for my copy. You can find them here.