Give Us a Kiss

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Reviews of Give Us a Kiss (1 review)

4 - Good Review

Reviewer:

Since it's Woodrell, it's already a cut above most, but I wouldn't list this as my favorite of his books. After writing the three novels that later became The Bayou Trilogy, and the historical Woe To Live On, Give Us A Kiss is the first of what Woodrell would become famous for: his so-called "country noirs." As such, you can see where he's still finding his way, and right off, he breaks one of my unwritten rules by creating a main character who is a writer. (Don't ask me why, but writers just don't interest me as characters, maybe because they're always a little too smart for their surroundings.) But wait, there's more! Doyle Redmond bears more than a passing resemblance to Woodrell himself, based on what I know of the man: grew up deep in the Ozarks, quit school, joined the Marines, did a bunch of college and grad school, never held a "real job" (Woodrell says he's "just not equipped" for it, in the interview at the end of the book). Okay, fine then. Write what you know, right? The plot itself is prime Woodrell: drugs, family loyalty, dirty backwoods doings, a young "hillbillyette beauty" who's got big ideas for her future but no real plan to put them into action. Basically, what it boils down to is this: DOyle has stolen his wife's car and left the literary life in California behind, and come back home to Missouri, where his parents ask him to do a favor and talk his older brother Smoke, a career criminal, into turning himself in for some misdeed or other. Doyle doesn't try too hard, and soon is "part of the gang," the rest consisting of Smoke, his girlfriend Big Annie, and Big Annie's daughter Niagra. They're growing a patch of marijuana back in the woods, and need to keep it safe from the family's longstanding nemeses in the Dolly clan, who are of course sniffing around. But as is always the case with Woodrell's novels, it's not the story, but how it's told that counts. He's among the best at telling a sad story in a funny way, and this is no exception. But, unlike most of his other books, this one actually has a somewhat happy ending. It's a quick, entertaining read, but it doesn't stick with you like Tomato Red, still my favorite from Woodrell.