Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

Every once in a while you read a book that you absolutely love – seriously, it may be the best thing I’ve read all year – and have no one to recommend it to. Cry Father is not a book for everybody. It’s not even for most people. I’m honestly not sure who it is for. Because who wants to admit to loving a bloody, drug-induced, alcohol-fueled novel featuring animal cruelty?

I do, apparently. I know some of you may have grown up reading wholesome books like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. And you may love them. Odds are they taught you all about great literature and how people should behave and the proper way the world should function. Not me. I loved Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps (and I already professed my love for the show Are You Afraid of the Dark?). And those taught me to appreciate gnawing and blood and wendigos…  They are the perfect gateway literature to novels like The Devil All the Time, Donnybrook, and Cry Father*. If you didn’t like those, you might as well not even pick this one up, despite its literary perfection.

Cry Father

Patterson Wells, professional debris clearer and watcher of human misery, is miserable. He lost his young son years ago and hasn’t been able to move on. Instead, in a diary of sorts, he writes letters to his dead son.  Because he doesn’t want to let go. And when the diary doesn’t provide enough solace, he drinks. Drinking is more effective anyway. Patterson meets Junior, the wayward sociopathic son of his neighbor, with the intention of not getting caught up in his madness. Instead, he finds himself dragged deeper in the drug runner’s antics.

This novel is not for the faint of heart. It’s brutal, heartbreaking, and beautiful. It’s as bloody as it is poetic. Set in Colorado, it perfectly depicts the city’s seedier side of dive bars and environmental issues, as well as the mountains and the mesas. There are drug cartels, women tied up in bathtubs, and death. There are regrets, mistakes, and vast amounts of physical and emotional pain. This novel is the story of fathers and sons and the way they can destroy each other. It’s brilliant and the best thing I’ve read all year. Read it if you can.

“When I sit in the cabin, you’re what I can’t see in the darkness through the window. You’re in everything I see and don’t see. Nobody gets to resolve that. We’re all everything we’ve lost. Just as my fuckups as a father came, in part, from losses before you. Nothing ends, nothing heals.

Not that I’d have it any other way.”

So here’s to everyone who may enjoy a novel that features a woman tied up in a bathtub, a man gnawing another man’s arm, and a matte black 1969 Dodge Charger. And dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. Cheers and happy reading!

So what do you do when you have a great book that may not appeal to a wide audience?

Any time you get a book with copious amounts of alcohol and illegal substances, food is hard to come by. The best I’ve got is “They have frozen pizzas in the back, too,” Patterson offers. “But you have to order a drink.” So pizza it is. While the subject matter of the book is everything is wrong with the world, this pizza…this pizza is everything that’s right. Spinach and bacon and cheese. Yum.

Spinach Bacon Pizza
*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

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  • Kate @ booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Well that pizza looks tops.

    Despite it being the best thing you’ve read this year (which is most certainly very high praise), I’m not sure my Anne-of-Green_Gables-and-Pollyanna sensibilities could hack this one 😉

    • Rory

      Haha, in my head I was thinking “this is NOT a Kate book”. That actually crossed my mind…

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    Well, I’M going to be picking this up fast, quick and in a hurry.

    • Rory

      SOOO good. You’ll like it.

  • Naomi

    You have made me want to read this book and not read it at the same time. And, this makes me even more curious about it, so we’ll see. Love this review!

    • Rory

      That was my reading experience as well. I loved it, but there’s that moment that you wonder if you should be loving the book, given the content…

  • Steve Weddle

    Yes. Loved this one. As much as I dug PIKE, I dug this one just a bit more. Great work by Mr Whitmer.

    • Rory

      This is the first book I’ve read by the author, but I definitely have to pick up Pike soon. I am from Denver and this book was great to read from that perspective.

  • Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    This was pretty fantastic. My only disappointment with it was I wanted more. 🙂

    • Rory

      I can’t wait to pick up Pike.

  • Charlie Stella

    Nice review. I’m doing one myself this weekend. If you haven’t read Ben, before, I Very highly recommend Pike (his debut novel) … I’ve got about 30 pages left to Cry Father and will be reading them while I walk during lunch. He’s one of the best around these days, hands down.

    • Rory

      Yes! It’s been moved up to the top of my list. And he is, I absolutely love the last paragraph of this book.

  • Catherine

    What a gorgeous review. I know this is not a book I can read but your writing is so thoughtful and precise that it is a pleasure to read about a book I know I can’t read.

    I felt that way about Ruby- so much pain and degradation but such powerful writing.

    • Rory

      It is like Ruby in that way, just gut-wrenching.

  • Words for Worms

    I’m quite certain this book wouldn’t be something I’d dig, but it makes me happy to hear how much you loved it! It also makes me hungry for that pizza, specifically.

    • Rory

      Pizza makes everything better.

  • Charlie Stella
    • Rory

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I’m not sure this is the book for me, but I’m glad YOU loved it!

    • Rory

      It’ll make my top ten list for sure! Unless there are ten more amazing books in my future before the end of the year – and I’m totally open to that possibility as well.

  • billoo

    Looks fascinating, but it will take an age before it gets to this corner of the world. Khair…thanks for he pointer.

    And the pizza! If you’d had fried egg instead of bacon I’d be with you all the way, Rory.

    • Rory

      I am a huge pizza fan (sliced mozzarella, tomato, ad basil is my favorite), but I can’t say I’ve ever given fried egg a try. I will have to think about that.

  • billoo

    Think about it? Ah, such little faith, Rory!

    Well, yes, you can’t go wrong with basil but haven’t you had a Fiorentina?

    • Rory

      I’ve never even heard of a Fiorentina – I just had to google image that. And I that will be safely put in the “think about it” category until I work up the courage to branch outside of the tried and true foods.

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