Globe & Mail Review of OUR DAILY BREAD
I am humbled and grateful for the wonderful review Alan Cuymn gave OUR DAILY BREAD in the Globe & Mail. I have enormous respect for Cuymn’s work; to get such a positive review from him leaves me breathless.
Where is hell, exactly?
Up the mountain, where it has always been. The road there takes your children first.
Our Daily Bread, by Lauren B. Davis, is all about that road. Signs blare from the beginnings of many chapters, sermon excerpts from the Church of Christ Returning. But it’s not all fire and brimstone. Much of the scenery looks hauntingly familiar, and that’s the power of a literary novel detailing, almost lovingly, every good intention.
In the balance lie the contested souls of the troubled Evans family, especially those of little Ivy and her teenage brother Bobby. Bobby falls under the influence of Albert Erskine, a young buck from a notorious mountain clan who mentors Bobby down the path to smoking, drinking, stealing – and heading for worse. Albert has broken away, sort of, from the unholy grip of his own people, and lives in a shack on the edge of the main compound. His personal code, built up “slap by slap, bruise by bruise,” begins with an injunction against sleeping in your own vomit, and “You don’t shack up with a woman who tosses her used sanitary napkins in the stove…”
Bobby’s parents are coming apart and so Ivy, too, is vulnerable. But she drifts into the orbit of an angel, Dorothy, the proprietor of an antique shop who keeps a proper wall on the world. Ivy’s apprenticeship couldn’t be in starker contrast to her brother’s: polishing silver, preparing tea, dusting the lacquer from long ago.
If this contest sounds a bit like Bambi Meets Godzilla – well, it is all to Davis’s credit that the outcome seems in doubt. One of the strongest chapters in a novel full of remarkable moments concerns the possibility of salvation offered by a decent, home-cooked meal. Tom Evans’s wife runs off, and Evans collapses into depression. Dorothy, against all her instincts to maintain reserve, hurries over with a prepared dish. The smell of the chicken, the ritual of setting the table, the calm, quiet decency of the gesture, feels for a time almost enough to right the course of this lost family. . .
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