Monday, March 19, 2012


Justin Curfman’s debut novel, Wrecker, is a powerful condemnation of the horrible effects on a child that stem from neglectful (and, in this case, malicious) parenting.  I want to stress that much of the book’s power stems from how graphically its disturbing content is presented.  Some readers might be unable to finish this one; those who do make it all the way through will not soon forget it.

High school senior Sammy Fennell is working long hours in his father’s convenience store and looking forward to his high school graduation.  Sammy, though, has girlfriend problems that are like a ticking time bomb set to explode in his face.  With beer in hand and, hoping to win his girl back, he knocks on her mother’s door one night only to discover that her little sister is there alone.  Hours later, Sammy wakes up on the floor to the realization that the combination of too much beer and a wise-beyond-her-years young teen has led to a mistake that will almost certainly have tragic consequences for both of them.

Flash forward a few years, and Sammy is providing for his wife and two young children by driving a wrecker for the man who befriended him just when he most needed to meet someone he could trust.  But all is not well in Sammy’s young family: his new baby has serious health problems, his wife can barely cope with daily life since giving birth to the little girl, and his little boy is largely on his own until Sammy comes home every evening.   Bad as things are already, after Sammy is falsely accused of molesting his young son, they get a whole lot worse for the Fennells.  Forced by court order to vacate the family trailer, Sammy bunks at the wrecker yard and loses himself in his work – where he has developed the rather morbid hobby of removing and collecting the milometer from each vehicle involved in a fatal accident that he tows to the yard. 

Justin Curfman
Wrecker begins as an almost comical look at life in the small town South, and so slowly morphs into a story of shocking depravity and abuse, that what happens to young Eric Fennell packs a much more powerful punch than it would have otherwise.  Readers will likely be somewhat surprised again by the subsequent shift of tone that occurs when Curfman reveals the novel’s surprising ending.  This one is quite the rollercoaster ride.

Rated at: 3.0

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