Waste by Andrew F. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
On the way home from work late at night, Jamie and Moses hit a lion, nearly totaling Jamie's car. Moses comes home to find his mother missing and wanders the bleak Ontario town of Larkhill looking for her. Meanwhile, Jamie finds himself homeless and discovers a body in waste can at work...
Waste is one gritty read, the tale of two losers and their respective circles of friends in Larkhill, a dying city of filthy hotels and abandoned buildings. An undercurrent of hopelessness runs through it, making it seem like a much longer book than it is.
The dead lion turns out to be incidental, although it does bind the fates of co-workers Jamie and Moses. Jamie has a daughter with a former co-worker but little else. Moses has a circle of wannabe skinhead friends and a brain-damaged mother, former bowling champion Elvira. Throw in a couple brothers with ZZ Top beards and a power drill fetish, a drug dealer named The Lorax, and the lion's cancer-ridden owner, and Waste becomes a powerful stew of violence and despair.
The book jumps back and forth in time, showing Jamie and Moses as kids before returning to their present predicaments. Poor Connor Condom! The first half or so of the book moves really slowly and I contemplated shelving it. However, the second half was a page-turner and was almost strong enough to lift the book up to four stars.
This isn't a book with a lot of likable characters. Everyone seemed coated in blood and shit by the end. Jamie's boss was the only one that seemed like a good guy but he was probably hiding something hideous under his benign veneer, like virgin snow covering up a thousand carcasses.
Sullivan's writing was right on. I felt grimy reading part of this and he has a great eye for detail. I felt pretty tired by the end of the book.
Waste is one brutal read, part Donald Ray Pollock, part Trainspotting. Three out of five stars.
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