World’s End – T. Coraghessan Boyle

Many books are written for the sole purpose of imparting knowledge. Other books are written to simply be read. And still others are written to induce a guilty pleasure, like a second helping of apple pie a la mode that for some time afterwards will linger and haunt the reader like cellulite lingers on hips. World’s End, is one of those guilty little pleasures.

T. Coraghessan, or T as I have affectionately dubbed him, has written a steaming hot gumbo of a book, teaming with rich characters and boiling over with facts culled from the Hudson River Valley’s past and present. The result is one savory experience.

Skillfully, but still confusing, T weaves the narrative from the 1960’s, to the 40’s all the way back to the seventeen century using his extraordinary grasp of the English language to share with the reader the fateful lineage of the Van Brunt’s, the Van Wart’s, and several other Dutch and Indian tribes. T is a wordsmith above all others. Have a good dictionary on hand before plunging into this treat. Hommolous, pullulating, omphalus, oleaginous, is this English? This impressive list of grammatical strokes of art is nearly endless.

The families existing in the Hudson Valley are full of peg-legged, dirt eating, footless and haunted characters that in some cases are the stuff of legends. All are caught up in their relationship with their fathers, focusing the relationship between father and son, between father and family, between father and country. Walter Van Brunt, searches the entire book for his father who left him when he was twelve, attempting to dispel the viscous rumors and half truths that literally haunt him nearly every moment of his every day. Centuries earlier, Wooter Van Brunt, fights to understand his father and the acts he is not yet ready to understand. Dipe Van Wart has disowned his rebellious daughter, and poor old Tom crane gets no respect as some simply wait for his father to die, but he does end up with the girl.

The stories take many twists and turns, too many for me, and what did not help me is the fact that all the family’s desire to name sons after fathers and brothers. T has plenty names for things, but not his characters. Across the span of centuries, there are four Jeremy’s, two Wouter’s, two Walters and two Jan’s. Too much.

Although more fiction and less history, although the characters are bitter, poor, dejected, loathsome, cheating, selfish, and in some cases downright despicable, T has stitched together a fine story relating the interworkings of the families and events that have help to shape the small area just up the Thruway known as the Hudson River Valley.

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