The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollack

2017 Limelight Reviews
General Fiction, Mystery and Crime

There’s a song by The Band, about a travelling medicine show in the US some time back, that talks about “saints and sinners, losers and winners – all kinds of people you might want to know”. I was reminded of this while reading The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollack.

Pollack worked as a laborer in a paper mill in Ohio for over 30 years and his characters show that life experience — a bit desperate, mainly poor, often violent but alive and unapologetic. It’s tragic, funny, sometimes tender, vulgar – not everyone’s cup of tea – but an extraordinary recreation of the time just as the US enters WW1, with the demise of an older west and the emergence of a different type of cruel modernity.

The novel is about three brothers, who go on the run after a botched robbery. Though inept, they succeed in eluding capture and acquire a notoriety that’s not entirely deserved. It is set against a backdrop of backwoods sharecroppers, an African American chancer, a gay military officer dreaming of dying in valour on the fields of France, and a grotesque saloon manager who would put you off bars for life. Meanwhile the bodies pile up.

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollack in the SMSA Library Catalogue.


Stephen Elliott
SMSA Library Assistant