I swear I’m not a psychopath. But I enjoyed reading Donald Ray Pollock’s “The Devil All the Time” and no, you don’t have to be a psychopathic deranged killer to enjoy it. The story telling was excellent and that kept the pages turning. However, this is one of those books I got super excited about initially but then was left disappointed in the end. You can read why in the spoiler section towards the end.
The Devil All the Time is a story set in the period just after the Word War II. It follows a couple of characters based out in Ohio and West Virginia. Their stories are told separately but in due time, their lives will all get interwined. To break it down, there are three main plots or storylines to follow. You have Arvin (you can consider him as one of the main characters of the book) who had a very strange and messed up childhood all because of his father. Then you have the killer couple of Sandy and Carl who travels once a year throughout certain states in their car hoping to catch unsuspecting hitch hikers. Carl would photograph Sandy having sex with the stranger only to execute him in the end. Last but not least, you have the deranged preacher named Roy and his cripped buddy sidekick Theodore. Most of the time spent in the story will be focused on Arvin and the killer couple.
The Devil All the Time can’t really be considered as a book about just good versus evil people. Although it is possible for some to reach that conclusion, the book tries to blur the line with who I consider as the main character. The book starts off strong by telling the story of Willus, Arvin’s father, coming back home after the war. Things get a little hectic after his wife gets treated with cancer and so both father and son rely heavily on their faith in hopes to see the woman get better. When things don’t turn out as expected, a different tactic is used. Although there are different stories told here, you have a feeling that Arvin is the main protagonist as he’s the only person with some sense of right and wrong. Although Arvin is raised by good people, there are some things that just stick with you your entire life and those are the things that can have the most lasting impact. Throughout his young adulthood, Arvin tries to be a good boy but some things just can’t be settle with words alone.
The story of Sandy and Carl was one that I got heavily into as soon as I read about it. Carl is a “photographer” that can only get a high when he shoots certain types of pictures. Using Sandy as bait, they would literally drive around different state highways looking for their “models”. This story is a bit disappointing to me because although you get a good look into their lives, not much was being written about their adventures together. Sure, you read about them traveling the road together and of their hardships and whatnot but of the evil deeds they commited, it’s only told via flashbacks which is a bit disappointed as it leaves you wanting more. Not much is told about them commiting their horrible acts of crime in the present. It also felt as though the author didn’t want to give the audience too much horrific details about what the couple would do to their victims. A big portion of the book is spent on them but nothing really escalates to a new level. This isn’t a thriller or action/adventure book, I understand, but I felt the author could have done more to make things just a little bit more interesting. I guess I was so excited with their story because I kept having the notion that something exciting or a major plot twist would enfold but never got it.
The storyline with Roy and Theodore can be considered an afterthought. It’s a shame because it had a very promising beginning but after that major incident, they were hardly talked about again. For times they were, it was only briefly and nothing monumental really happens. Although both character have their differences, they still care deeply about one another. But again, it’s hard to focus on that point because their storyline doesn’t progress as deeply as I would have liked.
I think many good books I have read in the past deserves to be made into a movie. The Devil All the Time is no different although they would seriously need to add in extra parts to keep the audiences entertained. The book certainly has its flaws but you just can’t help yourself but keep turning the pages. The awesome character develop certainly helps and that shows that the author definitely knows what he’s doing in that department. My suggestion is to just read the book without having too much expectations on what will or will not happen and you’ll have a great time. Although the book is dark and gritty, I think it will be a good change of pace from all the other books you’re reading right now.