As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A poor Mississippi family disintegrates upon the death of Anse Bundren's wife Addie, mother of the 5 other Bundrens. Through the running thoughts and memories of these family members, and of others who come in contact with and sometimes try to help them, sometimes to cheat them, bit by bit we learn the complex story of marriage, adultery, and conflicts never voiced but tearing the insides of Cash, the eldest son (about 30), his slightly younger brother Darl, and the three who came many years later and at least one of them by a different father, the rebellious Jewel who is the most loved by Addie, and his 17-year-old sister Dewey Dell, and their littlest brother Vardaman, convinced that his mother is a fish and is not really dead. The only character whose mind remains closed to us is the passive-aggressive Anse, a devious old coot who likes to see himself as a victim of fate but manages to manipulate everybody else.
Most of story is the tremendously difficult journey by wagon and mules, in the face of storm and flooding, to distant Jefferson where Anse insists is the only proper place to bury the by now rotting corpse of Addie — but Anse's real motive for this totally unnecessary trip to town is to get himself a set of false teeth, which he has been longing for for years. Flood, injury, mutual betrayal, madness, conflagration, and the exploitation of a poor rural girl in trouble by an unscrupulous city-slicker intensify the drama of their odyssey.
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