Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published by Books on Tape on March 4th 2015
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
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Also by this author: The Weight of This World, The Line That Held Us
The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.
Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when he botches a murder and sets off a trail of escalating violence, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his kingpin father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.
‘It was a silly thought to think that the life I was born into was something that could be so easily left behind. Some were destined for bigger things, far-off places, and such. But some of us were glued to this place and would live out what little bit of life we were given until we were just another body buried on uneven ground.’
Jacob McNeely is eighteen years old and has little to no hope for his future; he’s a McNeely after all. His mother is a meth addict and his father is the leader of the Cashiers, North Carolina meth ring with Jacob stuck between the middle of them. His daddy sends him and two others on a task to dispose of a snitch before he does further damage but everything goes wrong and sets in motion inescapable trouble. When Jacob’s only love Maggie asks him to leave with her, to finally leave that place behind, he has a brief moment of hope where he can almost see himself surviving outside of Cashiers. Actually making it happen is another matter entirely.
Ahh, another one of my “back woods” books. Appalachians. Trailers. Meth rings. And let’s not forget the typical abundance of bloodshed. There is something about these stories that manage to completely captivate me, don’t ask me why or how. Light has been on my TBR for ages but it wasn’t until Audible called this audio narration one of the best of 2015 did I finally pick it up. MacLeod Andrews narration is fantastic and I completely agree with Audible (listen below to a clip.) While I’m definitely impressed that this is the authors debut novel, there was something slightly absent from this and I’ve determined that it was ultimately the characterizations. Jacob was a well-written complex character that hovered on the fence that separated good and evil the entire story. His “daddy” was straight up violent with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I would have appreciated some complexity with him as well. Maggie’s purpose was to be the shining beacon of hope, the good girl that turns Jacob away from a life of crime, but that’s all she really was… a purpose. Her character wasn’t built up at all, relying on her and Jacob’s past which we were never even shown in walks down memory lane. If it had gone on for too much longer I would be tempted to say it took the path of cliché, however, Joy pulled out the punches with an explosive ending that was bold and audacious and left me most impressed.
“Looks like there might be a little of that McNeely blood in you after all.”
That’s what I was scared of.
Where All Light Tends to Go is about being born into a situation, a lifestyle, and the realization that circumstance is one difficult obstacle to surmount. Jacob McNeely may be a McNeely, but his strength and determination to earn a life beyond his family legacy is admirable. David Joy is one to add to the list of Southern Gothic authors to read when you’re looking for a wild time in the Appalachians.