Blood And Remembrance: My Review

e7308-cover2bbnr2bnarrow2bborder2b-2bcopyHenry David Thoreau wrote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” The loss of hope, the acceptance of life’s disappointments, the rash choices made to fill the resulting void in our lives, and the consequences of those decisions and actions are at the heart of “Blood and Remembrance.” The difference is that the descriptions of desperation in Chris Manno’s prequel to his award winning novel, “East Jesus,” are not quiet. They are loud, violent, vulgar and… absolutely riveting!
His characters are flesh and blood, their interwoven stories presented in such a way that you’re not only along for the ride. You live and breathe their experiences.
These are experiences most of us never encounter; life inside prison, booze and drug soaked evenings trying to hook up at the local bar, VFW, honky-tonk, or pancake house, broken relationships, rundown trailer parks, and dilapidated vehicles. This is the side of Texas we try not to see.
There’s Ray, incarcerated at Huntsville State Penitentiary. He’s trapped not just by iron bars, cement walls and razor wire, but a system that strips away any sense of human dignity and reduces inmates to animalism just to survive. He will do anything to make it through another day, including murder. He stays hopped up on drugs to negate the monotony and drudgery of life in the Pen. His only escape is the occasional conjugal visit. He knows, however, that he will never get out and that even if he were to once again experience freedom, he would only revert to the same behavior that put him behind bars in the first place.
There’s Verlene, Ray’s girl. She realizes that she has no future with a convict yet she continues the conjugal visits knowing that she will experience only rough sex, not love or intimacy. She’ll be used, but she’s accustomed to that. She exudes the kind of sexuality that drives men mad, and while she is “cock sure” of her ability to manipulate the opposite sex, she is also insecure and vulnerable. Tequila hides her insecurity and vulnerability, at least in public. In the privacy of a public bathroom or her trailer home she cries her eyes out until she once again washes her face, touches up her makeup, and repeats the same destructive behavior.
There’s Randy Mac, the Cowboy. He works as a ranch hand five days a week from sunup to sundown, letting off steam on the weekends. He loves the land and he loves the lifestyle. He dreams of traveling west to New Mexico and Colorado, of buying his own spread one day, and settling down. The only obstacle… Verlene. He knows he’s on the road to hell, but simply can’t get enough of her. Though he tries to force himself to put her out of his mind, he’s haunted by her perfume, by the memory of their trysts, and the continued temptations she throws in his direction. He’s damned and powerless to do anything about it.
There’s little resolution to any of these story lines at the end of “Blood and Remembrance.” After all, this is a prequel. But I’m absolutely hooked. My next read… “East Jesus!”
There is also little to suggest a happy ending. This is a Greek tragedy, albeit the setting is Texas. Nonetheless, I or anyone who reads the first of these two novels by Chris Manno will appreciate his ability to immerse us in a world populated by characters that we genuinely care about, in settings that make us uneasy, in a narrative that makes us want to influence or somehow alter an outcome that we know can only end in disaster, and has us rushing to the physical or online bookstore to get a copy of his companion book.

Author: maxknight73

Retired Army Officer and Counterintelligence Specialist. Currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Gray. Cancer survivor. Avid history buff and writer.

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