Small Mov­ing Parts

D. B. Jack­son

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - AMY O’LOUGH­LIN

Turner Pub­lish­ing (MAY) Soft­cover $17.99 (384pp) 978-1-68336-782-6

In 1958, on a sum­mer’s night in Bu­fort, Texas, two strangers’ des­tinies col­lide. Har­ley Cain, an ill WWI veteran and rancher, and Dodger Cooper, a ne­glected and phys­i­cally abused teenager who walks with a limp, are dis­tressed by their lives’ cir­cum­stances and in­tend to kill them­selves. Their chance en­counter hin­ders their plans and sends them on a jour­ney through the “un­yield­ing” West Texas land­scape, into a world of horse thieves and Texas law men. A pro­found and ten­der bond de­vel­ops be­tween Har­ley and Dodger, giv­ing them some­thing to live for as well as some­one to love and be loved by.

Ap­pro­pri­ately ti­tled, Small Mov­ing Parts moves in many di­rec­tions. Part re­demp­tion tale, part com­ing-of-age novel, and part ac­tion-and-ad­ven­ture story, it ex­plores broad themes, in­clud­ing iso­la­tion, death and dy­ing, life and liv­ing, aban­don­ment, right­eous­ness, and hope. The novel’s ren­der­ing of time and place is as for­mi­da­ble as its por­trayal of de­spair and benev­o­lence.

Such dy­namism, if at­tempted by a writer of lesser tal­ent, could eas­ily de­volve into a clumsy mud­dle, but Jack­son is a mas­ter­ful sto­ry­teller. His nar­ra­tive fo­cus, deft prose, and keen char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment de­pict with pre­ci­sion the “ob­scure quirk of cir­cum­stances” that pro­pels the story. Taut di­a­logue echoes a South­ern drawl: “I ain’t get­ting whupped no more,” Dodger says.

Har­ley and Dodger are cap­ti­vat­ing, and the novel’s sup­port­ing char­ac­ters are equally well drawn. Har­ley and Dodger’s in­ter­de­pen­dence builds slowly and beau­ti­fully as they saunter on horse­back, at­tempt to out­wit ri­fle-tot­ing killers, and en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions re­plete with Har­ley’s pru­dent apho­risms and Dodger’s wideeyed in­quis­i­tive­ness.

From the novel’s grip­ping open­ing, in which Har­ley holds a pis­tol to his head, to its bit­ter­sweet af­ter­word, when the full arc of the char­ac­ters’ lives is re­vealed, Jack­son’s novel is an emo­tive, at­mo­spheric, and mem­o­rable tour de force. It is not to be missed.

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