James Wade got our attention with his debut, All Things Left Wild, that existed in a world between western, crime fiction, and the end of days. He proves his talent wasn’t a first-time fluke with his follow-up River, Sing Out. By setting up a simple crime fiction premise, he is able to delve deep into emotion and theme like a master bluesman with three chords.
Scott M. reviews the sophomore effort from local author James Wade. Wade made a splash with his debut novel All Things Left Wild, receiving a Reading the West Award for debut fiction, and all signs point to another standout read coming early next month.
Once again, he uses two young people on a violent journey as the center of the story. Jonah Hargrove survives a harsh life with a father who is abusive when he bothers to be around. When he turns thirteen, a teenage girl, River, stumbles to his trailer home strung-out with a backpack of meth she stole from her boyfriend. Jonah falls for her as he helps her get clean and agrees to help her go down river so they can sell it and escape East Texas. Soon the law, the boyfriend, and his dangerous partners are on their trail.
Wade captures the voices of these two young people perfectly. Rough experience has jaded them both past their years. He portrays that war with the innocence that remains and the cynicism that has been beaten into them with a vivid poignancy. Jonah often fights for his childhood, even as he quickly grows up on his journey, making it a heroic and rebellious act. The book backs these ideas up in a mix of hardcore crime fiction, fairy tale, and the biblical mood he used in All Things Left Wild.
River, Sing Out proves that James Wade is an emerging talent who crosses genre lines effortlessly. With echoes of Davis Grubb’s The Night Of The Hunter, he portrays a child’s view of evil and the strength of innocence. That said, it’s told in a voice all his own as it grows deeper and deeper.