Customer Reviews for

The Devil All the Time

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Incredible Work

By the end of the second chapter I felt as though I were reading a contemporary version of Steinbeck. Pollock's writing is somehow similar to moist beauty sucked to a ragged
dry poetic carcass. The surrealistic nature of the story helps to counter the terrifying viol...
By the end of the second chapter I felt as though I were reading a contemporary version of Steinbeck. Pollock's writing is somehow similar to moist beauty sucked to a ragged
dry poetic carcass. The surrealistic nature of the story helps to counter the terrifying violence and savage outcome of the magnetic characters. At later points in the book the action borders on absurdist, almost to a fault, but Pollack reels the empathy back to the hopeless dilemma of his protagonist. By the end I felt as though there was light where their most obviously shouldn't be. I highly recommend!

posted by Adaptoid on September 11, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Pretty Good

Some interesting characters and rather well written but I found I didn't really care much about what happened to them. It's hard to work up empathy for people who are so much their own worst enemies, even though that's a pretty accurate portrayal of humanity in general...
Some interesting characters and rather well written but I found I didn't really care much about what happened to them. It's hard to work up empathy for people who are so much their own worst enemies, even though that's a pretty accurate portrayal of humanity in general.

posted by lindaczak on September 9, 2011

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Incredible Work

    By the end of the second chapter I felt as though I were reading a contemporary version of Steinbeck. Pollock's writing is somehow similar to moist beauty sucked to a ragged
    dry poetic carcass. The surrealistic nature of the story helps to counter the terrifying violence and savage outcome of the magnetic characters. At later points in the book the action borders on absurdist, almost to a fault, but Pollack reels the empathy back to the hopeless dilemma of his protagonist. By the end I felt as though there was light where their most obviously shouldn't be. I highly recommend!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    WOW Couldn't put it down!

    This was the first book I've read of Donald Pollock and it was crazy. I don't usually take the time to write reviews, but this book has me spinning. The story lines were woven into this spiderweb that just got more and more intense with each chapter. I could not stop reading it and when I got done I just wanted to talk to someone else about it. It was dark, violent and an incredible ride. Fantastic read, will be thinking about this one for a LONG time to come.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    In Donald Ray Pollock¿s braided novel The Devil All the Time, th

    In Donald Ray Pollock’s braided novel The Devil All the Time, the reader is transported back in time to a dark Midwest setting, from pre World War II to the 1960’s. Brutal and raw, Pollock creates conflicted characters toward which we feel both empathy and disgust toward. From the time that we meet small Arvin, who watches his father, Willard, sacrifice living creatures over his “prayer log” while his mother loses her battle with cancer, to the image of grown Arvin looking at the moss covered log and rotting crosses one last time, we laugh and cringe as we are dragged through the assortment of corroded and perverted character’s stories. With short chapters and sharp dialogue, this is a quick, easy read, however complicated with the intertwining stories that eventually and unexpectedly are all brought together.
    Pollock’s neatly woven novel uses threads that one would think unlikely to collide. A 10 year old orphan, a married couple roaming the Midwest as serial killers, fulfilling their sexual thrills, and a scamming preacher with his pedophile, guitar playing sidekick are the main focus of the book. We watch orphaned Arvin grow up in a world where serial killers, Sandy and Carl, pick up hitchhikers, luring them into filmed seduction followed by filmed murder, Preacher, Roy, and his sidekick, Theodore, are running from the law for their scandalous activity amongst churches, and the legal system in his backwoods hometown being damaged and corrupt. Just how will Arvin turn out in this world? Which characters would survive this gritty tale?
    Within the first 50 pages, Arvin witnesses 2 animals and a human being sacrificed by his father, hanging from crosses, and dripping with blood and maggots in order to save his mother from the cancer that is killing her. When his attempts don’t work and the woman dies, Willard, Arvin’s father, takes his own life, leaving him orphaned and to be raised by his grandmother and uncle. We see both an evil and good side of Arvin and, at the end of the novel, are left pulling for him to turn more toward good. He is the binding element throughout the book and with all the evil, we hope for some light.
    We meet morally bankrupt Carl and Sandy next. They save up for thrilling vacations during which they troll the nation’s highways, preying on people in need of a little help. They pick up male hitchhikers and while Sandy seduces them, Carl photographs. When they’ve gotten their thrills from their latest prey, they kill them in cold blood, taking yet more pictures. Although this couple has nothing, but evil intentions, their characters are built so well, that with their poverty and hard working nature, we can almost sympathize with them.
    The story of Roy and Theodore starts out casting them in the light of the Lord. Roy covers himself in spiders in front of a church while his invalid sidekick plays guitar in his wheelchair in order to prove their trust in God. As the reader watches their story unfold, we see that they are nothing but poor, lawless, scamming drunks. As they run from the law after a haunting murder, they end up in a world of trouble down the east coast. Homeless and down on their luck, the reader can also sympathize with the two anarchic men in their journey toward fulfillment.
    With these three main stories occurring throughout the novel, and many other side stories, they seem far from relatable to one another. In fact, they don’t all completely tie together until the last line we will read. With a shocking end, everything is tied neatly together and Pollock leaves the reader wanting more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2012

    Draws you in and keeps you intrigued.

    I enjoyed this dark story and found myself unwilling to put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Fascinating but soooo gritty...be warned.

    I couldn't put this one down but be aware that the subject is very stark and gritty. The people in this novel aren't like anyone you know (I certainly hope not....). You may be shocked at some of the practices the author writes about but again, these people are probably not your neighbors. Excellent story and vivid insight into a level of humanity most of us will never know.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    Twisted read

    Great read. A little slow at first and jumps around a bit to where you sometimes get confused but after page 125 the momentum gets going and its hard to stop. Good thriller with crazy twists!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing.....

    I could not put this one down!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Pretty Good

    Some interesting characters and rather well written but I found I didn't really care much about what happened to them. It's hard to work up empathy for people who are so much their own worst enemies, even though that's a pretty accurate portrayal of humanity in general.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    Fanstastic, intriguing, breathtaking.

    I enjoyed every detail, every character, every word. Though it may be a gruesome story line, it has become one of my favorite novels. A good read that will keep you guessing, and turning each page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Very engrossing

    Very much a pulp fiction/crime crime genre. Graphic, engrossing, and highly entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2014

    Must read

    Great story excited to read more from author

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    Awesome book. Pollock makes you feel like you are there.

    Awesome book. Pollock makes you feel like you are there.

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  • Posted September 22, 2012

    A mess of pure intrigue, suspense and sadness. The Devil All Th

    A mess of pure intrigue, suspense and sadness. The Devil All The Time, divulges into a world that we would rather not imagine, however, are allowed to experience with a well written maze of disturbed lives. The images that Pollock creates are embedded into your mind and are necessary to understand the world Arvin was born into. Pollock manages to draw a clash of emotions from readers towards the characters and surprisingly, a sense of wicked closure for Arvin. Pollock's interview on NPR introduced me to his work and quite honestly, I am now a Pollock reader for life.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    A very dark & messed up story, you can't put it down

    A very dark & messed up story, you can't put it down

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  • Posted September 17, 2012

    Solid. If it weren't so obsurdly barbaric and sardonic, it'd be

    Solid. If it weren't so obsurdly barbaric and sardonic, it'd be a classic. Instead, it'll get put in the suggest-to-who-you-know-can-take-it category.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2012

    Fascinating Characters--Dark Setting

    I grew up in the 50's and 60's. Visited old timers in smokey cabins just off dirt roads. This book captures the character of the people and the poverty of these places. I have not been so engrossed with characters, even the unsavory ones, since reading John Steinbeck's novels as a youngster. Great work on tough subjects.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2012

    Loved it

    Dark and sick but human

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  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Dark, Sick, Mesmerizing Characters

    I absolutely loved The Devil All the Time. The characters are the darkest, most sickening creatures I have ever read about and yet, I was completely mesmerized by them. Pollock's writing is so disturbing that I often found myself wondering how I could ever suggest this book to a person without forever changing their opinion of me. There's Willard who sacrifices animals and even a human to save his dying wife, while also subjecting his son, Arvin, to these disturbing rituals. Then we have Carl and Sandy who photograph and kill models. Finally, there's the preacher, Roy, and his wheelchair-bound cousin Theodore who are equally disgusting characters in this novel. Despite the appalling crimes committed by these people, I was fascinated by their lives and couldn't put this book down.

    My only criticism is that each story could have stood on its own. The Devil All the Time is less like a novel and more like a compilation of short stories. I understood the grand scheme connection, but it seemed a little forced - as if the author just needed a reason to slap the stories together in the same binding. Honestly though, I was not bothered by this; it was just more substance for me to cringe at.

    Reviewed by Brittany for Book Sake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2011

    Recommended, if you don't mind violence

    This is a quick read, full of intrigue. I read this for a book club and several members were put off by the violence. So be prepared for violence in the forms of sexual perversity and heinous acts. However, it is well written and a page turner. The characters are well formed and believable.

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  • Posted September 2, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    "Some people were born just so they could be buried." If you've heard of Donald Ray Pollock, it was probably due to his collection of interlinked short stories, Knockemstiff published back in 2009, set in the titular town. His debut novel

    (Originally published in full at The Nervous Breakdown.)

    If you've heard of Donald Ray Pollock, it was probably due to his collection of interlinked short stories, Knockemstiff published back in 2009, set in the titular town. His debut novel, The Devil All the Time (Doubleday) treads similar ground, spending most of its time in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia in the late 1950s and early 1960s, tracking and recording a wide range of psychopathic behaviors by a motley crew of misfits and delinquents.

    What Pollock does so well is create a place and time where nothing he says or shows us is beyond belief. From the beginning we see how things are in Knockemstiff, and we understand the desperation, the need for prayer, the aching hope that something will change and improve.

    "Four hundred or so people lived in Knockemstiff in 1957, nearly all of them connected by blood through one God-forsaken calamity or another, be it lust or necessity or just plain ignorance. Along with the tar-papered shacks and cinder block houses, the holler included two general stores and a Church of Christ in Christian Union and a joint known throughout the township as the Bull Pen."

    We follow a large cast of screwed up people, starting with Arvin Eugene Russell, who witnesses the death of his mother from disease, and the suicide of his father, damaged and distraught by the loss of his wife. Arvin is forced to worship and beg at a praying log, the forest drenched with blood, rotting carcasses and handmade crosses littering the ground, the stench and desperate act nothing short of abuse. When local lawman, Lee Boedecker shows up, he is shocked to find such ruins:

    "Bodecker lifted his flashlight. Animals in various states of decay hung all around them, some in the branches and others from tall wooden crosses. A dead dog with a leather collar around its neck was nailed up high to one of the crosses like some kind of hideous sacrifice. The head of a deer lay at the foot of another."

    Arvin eventually sets out on the road and leaves behind his tortured past, but the road is not easy or kind. Out on the highways and back roads are people like his neighbors, Carl and Sandy Henderson. Carl likes to take pictures of his naked wife fondling strange men, before and after he puts a bullet in the stunned hitchhikers, leaving bodies all over the southern states. Sandy bartends and whores, quick to jump in the sack with whatever man gives her an iota of grace and kindness, never phased by the violence she witnesses up close.

    We also follow a preacher, Roy, and his crippled, deviant guitarist Theodore, as they travel from a bewildered church to a circus filled with horny bird-women and drunken clowns to a desperate life as field hands and hobos. Carl and Sandy have cast a wide net, and eventually they pull in the tired, beaten down Roy, and ask him to be one of their models.

    We come to expect the worst, so when it arrives we are not shocked, but instead hypnotized, wondering when the dark souls who dance about the page will finally get their comeuppance. We wait for justice to descend, for all of the cruel, violent acts to be punished, for the righteous to be redeemed in the end.

    (Continued at The Nervous Breakdown.)

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