Work Like Any Other: A Novel by Virginia Reeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What this book is about:
Roscoe T Martin is and has always been interested in electricity but in rural Alabama in the 1920s in his wife’s farm where his family lives, there is not much electrical work to do. In fact, the Alabama Power hasn’t installed electricity to their farm yet. So Roscoe, a smart man as he is, decides to steal a tiny bit of Alabama Power’s electricity and bring the much needed current to their home. Only he and Wilson, the family’s friend, know of his plan. But when things go wrong and a man accidentally dies due to Roscoe’s electrical work, he is sent to prison and is forced in a life full of guilt and shame with only his work to keep him sane.
This was a new setting for me. Rural Alabama, 1920’s. No idea what that place looked like back then or what it looks like now for that matter. So, of course, I was very interested in finding out a bit about a part of the U.S. in a historical fiction novel. One of the reason we read books (or at least I do) is to “go” to places I’ve never been before. And this novel took me from a farm in Alabama, to a white male prison of the 1920’s. Roscoe is a smart guy. An electrician back in the day and also nowadays is a job that is much needed by everyone. I can only imagine what the status of an electrician was in the society back then. So what does an intelligent, hard working, proud man do in prison?
It was very interesting to see in this story both the strength and roughness of men but also their weakness and vulnerability. In a prison setting you get to see both men who are cruel, who crave power and dominance over others and men who can’t read, who have to obey orders to avoid being bitten or even killed. Roscoe, constantly followed by the ghost of his wife, Marie, telling him how guilty he is and reminding him that everything is his own fault, is trying to survive in an unforgiving place.
As a highly intelligent and hard-working man his talents are quickly recognised by his superiors and thankfully he is put to work. Work in the farm with the cows, work in the library with the books, work with the dogs, work like any other. Work is something Roscoe is given when he has lost everything. Ironically, work is also what cost him his freedom. But people endure and get used to their current situation. They adapt and learn to cope with what is thrown to them. For Roscoe, people come and go. Marie, Gerald his son, Wilson and Ed his friends. A strong man full of scars to remind him who he is and what he needs to do to survive within his own head.
This was a very interesting, debut historical fiction novel taking place in a prison and continuing on later outside of it. A story about human relationships and the relationship we have with ourselves. The harsh journey of a man who has to learn to adapt and change and to always keep moving forward. I quite enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy American novels, books about people in prison or a fiction novel about human hardships and surviving (mentally) when you’re on your own.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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