Jones's blackly humorous first novel, set on the Cooter family's failing dairy farm in New York State, is firmly grounded in the gothic tradition. Wryly narrated by 10-year-old Ollie Cooter, it blends frequent hilarity, startling violence and a gripping plot. Ollie's uncles, coarse rednecks nicknamed Hooter and Looter, are keeping their senile father's farm afloat while Ollie's hypochondriac dad Scooter is a traveling peddler of top-notch bull semen. Their jaded 13-year-old sister Mary Jean, Ollie's aunt, is his constant companion; with her, Ollie confusedly notices the symptoms of sexual awakening. Fear and evil soon engulf the Cooter farm: Scooter's imagined maladies and refusal to defend himself against Hooter's relentless jibes alienate his wife; Hooter is incestuous, adulterous and homicidal; Mary Jean discovers ``The Power,'' a malevolent force that inhabits an abandoned house, and enlists Ollie's help in releasing it with instructions to kill Hooter. Mary Jean and Ollie's helplessness, Hooter's lack of remorse and the suffering wrought by The Power--perhaps ghost, perhaps defense mechanism--arouse childhood angst and terror in this alternately amusing and tragic coming-of-age tale. (Jan.)
The Cooters--Hooter, Looter, and Scooter--work the family's upstate New York farm, not out of love for the land, but because that is what the Cooters have always done. Hooter, the eldest, is the self-proclaimed head of the family who maintains his position through intimidation and brute force. But tyrants beg to be overthrown, and ten-year-old Ollie (Hooter's nephew) and 13-year-old Mary Jean (Hooter's sister) plot to do just that by unleashing ``The Power'' against the evil force that is Hooter. The Cooter Farm is a powerful drama of family dysfunction and child abuse, told from the perspective of Ollie, who asks nothing more than a normal family life. Ollie's story is at once a poignant coming-of-age tale liberally laced with gothic overtones and a serious consideration of social issues with a hint of absurdity that smacks of James Thurber. But it works. This is a bold first novel that promises a great future for a bright young writer.-- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.