“May Lynn’s daddy was someone who only came home when he got tired of being any other place. We didn’t even know if he knew his daughter was missing. May Lynn used to say after her mama drowned herself her daddy was never the same. Said she figured it was because the laundry around her mother’s head had been his favorite snap-pocket shirt. That’s true love for you. Worse, her brother, Jake, who she was close to, was dead as of a short time back, and there wasn’t even a family dog to miss her.”
Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale is about a teenage girl in East Texas during the Depression who finds a body, finds some money, and travels towards Hollywood on a raft with her friends, while being pursued by family, acquaintances, corrupt cops, and maybe an urban legend. You could call it a coming-of-age story, an adventure story, a period piece, hillbilly noir (Joe Hill called it that), or a murder mystery, and you’d be right.
Should I read it? Yeah, especially if you’re a Texan.
What’s it like? It’s similar, stylistically, with the author’s other work like The Bottoms and The Thicket. If you aren’t familiar with his stuff, Edge of Dark Water is kind of a little bit like Twain’s Huck Finn, in that it captures the spirit of a time and place, with memorable funny characters on a dangerous adventure.
Is it easy to read? Yes. It’s written from the point of view of a girl during the Depression, so the language isn’t too complex. The regional dialect might annoy snooty people, so if you struggled with the excerpt above, this book probably isn’t for you.
Is it fun? Yeah, the protagonist is smart and funny, and the adventure feels fast-paced even when it’s not.
Is it just mindless fun or are there “lessons”? It’s not an after-school special, but there are themes of gender identity, sexuality, race, family, and friendship.
Can I give it to my kid for a present? I’d suggest that the kid be at least 13 or so. There are some not-kid-friendly things in it. Teenagers should handle it fine though.