Friday, September 4, 2009

"Go With Me" by Castle Freeman Jr.

The plot of this little book isn't all that complex. Terrified woman who stood up to the big bully is now truly being threatened by said bully. She goes to the local lawman but he can't do anything. He sends her to some people who can help her, as they are not part of the law. The guy the sheriff tells her to ask for isn't available, so she's sent out with two other guys instead, one a much older man and the other a strapping young hulk of muscle (but not overly bright). She's asked time and time again why she doesn't just leave, and she informs the men that she shouldn't have to. Her ex-boyfriend, a local, ran when the bully went after him, but she's not like that. She just wants this guy to leave her alone, and she'll take the help that's offered, even though she's not too sure about it. But as she will soon find out, "you got to be ready to go all the way through."

Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? But in a mere 160 pages, Freeman manages to make all sorts of little social commentaries and creates some very memorable characters. Lillian, our damsel in distress, is quite a pistol according to the men of Whizzer's almost-defunct lumber mill. In fact, several times they mention that Blackway (the bully) might have picked on the wrong woman. The guys that sit around Whizzer's place act almost like a Greek chorus of sorts; they fill in needed background information, give opinions, and generally help set the scenes. Oh, and they drink a lot of beer during the day. Blackway is no stranger to them, either - he used to work for the sheriff. Seems he was into some illegal things and was trying to get Kevin, Lillian's ex-boyfriend, nailed for the activities (yeah, it was pot). Kevin was willing to take the fall, but Lillian was having none of it. Her response was to call the state boys, and thus, Blackway's bullying and terrorizing of her. The man kills her cat!

The majority of the story is Lillian, Nate and Lester looking for Blackway. You learn a little bit about each of these three characters, enough to get a feel for them, but not enough to make you glad you finished the book. I wish I could have spent more time with them. Blackway is really a mystery; you only learn of him pretty much through the eyes of others. As things draw to a head, you have to wonder if Lillian really is willing to "go all the way through". Yes, the phrase pretty much means what you might think - be willing to do whatever it takes to get done what you want done.

I read another one of Freeman's later works, and while I enjoyed it too, I thought this was much better. I'll be keeping my eyes open for another of his short stories about the people of Vermont.

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