The Beginning of Sorrows by David Martin

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The Beginning of Sorrows

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Johnny Reace arrives in Beaker’s Bride, he encounters an isolated river town whose physical disrepair reflects the broken spirits of the town’s inhabitants. He takes up residence with Bonner Relee, the town’s powerful patriarch, who lives with his grandson, Jess, a lonely and eccentric boy, and his widowed daughter-in-law, Alva, a woman of languishing passions.

As Reace slips naturally into a life of hard labor, drink and storytelling, the Relee family confronts the bittersweet awakening of unfulfilled needs and desires. Reace’s inability to embrace the roles the Relees suggest (a partner for Bonner, a father for Jess, and a lover for Alva) provides the conflict that discloses the true nature of his involvement. Desperation and despair dominate Reace’s relationships, whose tragic outcomes reveal the full extent of human frailty.

Written in a style reminiscent of the works of William Faulkner, THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS probes the power of human relationships to shatter hope and betray trust while simultaneously releasing passion and effecting change. Through the tragic deaths of Reace, Jess, and Bonner, the author urges his characters, as well as his readers, to acknowledge their power over the lives of others. David Martin’s focus on the harm people inflict on themselves and on one another reflects the danger inherent in human beings’ capacity for free will.