by John Woods, Pegasus Books
Lady Chevy by John Woods is certainly one of those books that remains “stuck on you”, a good editorial novelty. My congratulations to Pegasus Books who was able to catch the opportunity and seal a collaboration with a rising star of American literature.
Probably it is a shame to review John Woods’ first work, nothing should affect the reading of this novel. I have seldom read such an engaging book, overwhelmed by the desire to know.
Suspense is the beating heart of this novel that torments, fascinates and let us know the frailties and perversions of the human soul.
Lashing, cutting, cruel, tremendously current, Lady Chevy embodies the blurred line that exists between good and evil, between right and wrong, between desire and delirium.
Amy and agent Hasting, the main characters, holds the stage at all times. Shrewd, calculating, attentive observer, she plays a predominant role in a story with a murky outline that highlights the pettiness of a drifting society.
The Ohio Valley setting fully reflects the typical atmosphere of the American province, with all its limitations, with the prejudices of small rural communities. And Amy’s family is a typical provincial American family, perpetually on a bill and with no plans that gives in to the dream of getting rich on the exploitation of hydrocarbons.
There have been many compromises, the entire town exhausted by the economic crisis gives its land for exploitation to an extractive company, Durnum, and since then nothing has been the same as before. The entire area is subjected to fracking, a destructive and highly polluting extraction technique. But over time everyone will suffer the consequences in terms of health and well-being.
Amy perfectly embodies the malaise that winds in the air. Many of her fellow citizens hide sordid secrets, many dreams of a more just society, praising white supremacy as the only way to degrade a town made up largely of veterans and bankruptcies. Dreams shattered by a wretched life, with no way out in a beautiful land but now in the hands of large multinationals.
The malaise has seeped into the young minds of Amy and Paul. A single action now risks compromising their lives forever. The malaise has infected them, bewitched them, misled them. Amy is ambitious, yearns for change, her dream is to go to college and one day become a veterinarian and forever leave behind her broken family and a country that has marginalized her by labeling her as “fat”.
Her life has not been easy, especially if she is obese and related to a grandfather with a cumbersome past.
And since that night everything has been questioned, her future, her freedom, her intelligence. Her is a subtle, cold game, her future will depend on how she will be able to manage that one wicked gesture, dictated by anger, by the desire for revenge on a society that she has always denigrated, underestimated.
Although Amy hasn’t always been like that, deep down she hides frailties and needs. Her family has never managed to fill her need for affection and love. A family bond that basically doesn’t exist, an insurmountable void that she had to learn to live with from an early age. Only Uncle Tom and her grandfather have always believed in her, given her potential, spurring her to cultivate her projects, without forgetting her roots, a land steeped in blood and lost dreams.
As a counterweight to the protagonist, we find the police officer Hasting, the other side of the same coin. The two characters embody the same desires, and in a certain sense the same visions, a single goal that unites them from the beginning, the supremacy over others for ideology and intelligence. A difficult choice to uncover, in full light, ignorant minds will never be able to understand the magnitude of their gestures and protracted choices in the name of an ideology that does not admit minorities.
Lady Chevy is an intriguing journey. Not easy to catalog. A noir, a detective story, a novel, contours that blend perfectly in a story that grows despite the abyss of the protagonists’ souls.
A debut with a bang for John Woods. The intensity of the dialogues, the evocative settings, the attention to detail and moods are the backdrop to a world corrupted by the greed of men, making this book a masterpiece of fiction.
The protagonist embodies the thoughts and dreams of a great little woman, willing to do anything to achieve her goals. Her immense, conscious ego arms her hand. She is capable of great gestures and inevitable choices, wrongdoings resulting from the past and an uncertain future. Amy perceives evil but does not flinch, she faces it with her head held high, becoming a champion and victim of herself.
A strong portrait that pierces the pages, fascinating despite everything. A thick figure and true soul of Lady Chevy. The reader has the arduous task of judging the actions and conscience not only of Amy but of anyone in the same situation.
What are the limits of our consciousness? Who can tell? The author emphasizes overcoming limits and actions performed in the name of an ideal, a thought, and how easy it is to get sucked into the black hole of our soul. A hard life lesson to deal with every day, to live with the countless facets of our conscience.
I hadn’t read such an interesting and captivating book for some time, congratulations to Pegasus Books for this successful editorial choice.
In a forgotten part of Middle America, a defiant act leaves one man dead and one teenage girl faced with a stark decision that could mean losing everything.
*A “Best Crime Novel” of the Year—New York Times*
Amy Wirkner, a high school senior in Barnesville, Ohio, is a loner, nicknamed “Chevy” for her size. She’s smart, funny, and absolutely determined to escape from her small town in the Ohio Valley, a place poisoned by fracking. She does well in school despite the cruelty of her classmates and has her eyes on a college scholarship, so she can one day become a veterinarian and make something of herself.
But even as she tries to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, trouble seems to find her. Believing toxic water has poisoned her family, Amy one night becomes involved in an act of ecoterrorism against a local fracking company that goes terribly wrong. Her oldest friend Paul, as angry and defiant as she is, has drawn her into this dark world—and now a man is dead as a result. But Amy can’t—won’t—let one night’s mistake stand in the way of her plans.
Touching on important topics as wide-ranging as ethnic hatred, police corruption, environmental decay, and gun violence, Lady Chevy is one girl’s story that highlights the darkest parts of modern America with surprising results.
John Woods grew up in Appalachian Ohio. He is a graduate of Ohio University’s creative writing program and has published short stories in Meridian, Midwestern Gothic, Fiddleblack, and The Rag. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.