Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Jacob McNeely was born to a life of crime.  His father is the meth kingpin of Cashiers, North Carolina, and half the county is in a league with him.  The other half knows to steer clear.  We meet Jacob on the night he would have graduated from high school if he hadn't dropped out and given in to the notion that he had no choice but to inherit the family business.  As the book unfolds, we meet the girl Jacob is head over heels for that he didn't break up with so much as set free.  We discover his mother, holed up in a shack, who is desperately addicted to the family merchandise.  Then, there are the folks that dare to double cross the McNeely family and have to pay the price.

The more Jacob learns about his father and his merciless ways, the more Jacob knows he's not cut out to follow in his father's footsteps.  When he gets another chance to win the girl he loves, Jacob finally sees a way out of the life that is expected of him.  Unfortunately, walking away might be harder than even he could ever imagine.

Where All Light Tends to Go should have been a huge hit with me.  I'm fresh from a binge watching of Justified, so backwoods Appalachian criminals are right up my alley.  Instead, I found myself disappointed with the book.  Joy is a capable writer, but Where All Light Tends to Go seems just a bit disingenuous.  Except for a few token country boyisms, if you will, Jacob's narration is almost too well spoken and even a little wooden.  When Jacob does stumble into some local vernacular, it smacks of Joy trying too hard to get his character to be a little more down home.  It would actually seem more genuine if Jacob referred to pants as pants every once in a great while instead of as britches, and not every police officer has to be referred to as a "bull." 

Jacob faces some considerable struggle in the pages of this book, but for me, Joy missed the mark when it came to garnering my sympathies.  Instead, I felt as if I was still watching this narrator from a distance instead of being truly involved in his story, despite the first person narration.  All in all, Where All the Light Tends to Go is a competent debut that didn't quite find its voice.

(Received my copy for free from the publisher via giveaway in Shelf Awareness)


  1. Formal writing doesn't seem right for a story like that. Sorry this didn't work for you.

  2. Bummer. I'm generally drawn to books about people with miserable Appalachian existences (I'm just cold and heartless like that!), but they have to feel authentic to work. Sounds like this one really did miss the mark. Too bad.