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Who was Huck Finn’s dad? In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim discover Pap Finn’s corpse—naked, shot in the back—in a “floating house” with charcoal drawings on the walls, surrounded by bizarre objects (a baby bottle, black cloth masks, an old chest, women’s clothing). What kind of life led to such an end?
Jon Clinch, disconcertingly assured debut novelist, submits his answer in FINN—a haunting, ballsy return to the muddy rivers, dense forests, and riverside towns of America’s most iconic literary terrain. Huck himself may be a lovable folk hero, but his father, the ultimate deadbeat dad, is anything but: here, Finn Sr. isn’t just a skiff-stealing vagrant but an alcoholic, a virulent racist (even for his era), and a sociopath with the body count to prove it. Yet, in Clinch’s beautifully supple, deeply empathetic prose, this patriarch suffers from his monstrosity. In a hypnotic narrative that shuttles back and forth between Huck’s birth and his father’s grisly death, Pap Finn struggles with human attachments (to the estranged Huck, to the dead slave woman he once loved, the father who rejected him), the aching loneliness of vagabond life, and his destructive, grisly urges. Just how did he die? And what don’t we know about Huck’s identity?
One of the most absorbing “retellings” I’ve ever read and a triumph in its own, Finn goes much further into the dark, dark wilderness Twain only hinted at so many years ago. You’ll never forget this.
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