Format: Paperback

When considering how best to review Donna Vitucci’s “At Bobby Trivette’s Grave,” my initial inclination was to simply say: “Congratulations, Donna, on a great book, and thank you for an excellent read.” While such a perfunctory response might satisfy someone like the author who obviously knew the work in question intimately, it was manifestly inadequate when I later tried to express my reaction to the book to a friend of mine. Excellent in what way, exactly? Good question. As a former academic heavily invested in the study of English literature, answering that question meant relying heavily on that old analytical warhorse “compare and contrast.”

After my most recent reading of ABTG, I realized that it reminded me of a favorite book of mine. Note the following similarities between ABTG and this “favorite”: both novels take place in the south, both revolve around families in crisis, a crisis that is exposed and exacerbated by the death of a loved one, a death that occurs very early in the narrative, a narrative that is presented via multiple points of view, including that of the deceased who speaks from beyond the grave. In other words, ABTG reminded me of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” The two stories resonate with readers for similar reasons: the subject matter and the techniques used to convey that subject matter. In AILD, the primary concern is finding some way of getting Addie Bundren’s corpse in the ground, properly and finally, while recounting the journey required to accomplish that. In ABTG, the characters are concerned with finding a way of accepting that Bobby’s corpse has been laid to rest, while coming to terms with the various journeys some of the characters took before his death and some that occur in the aftermath of his death. As mentioned above, both Faulkner and Donna use multiple points of view to tell their tales (though, admittedly, Faulkner uses a few more than Donna does). And while Donna’s prose is definitely not as baroque as Faulkner’s can be, it is, to my mind, often just as poetic and as accomplished.

The value of such a comparison is limited, of course. If you have not read Faulkner’s book, saying ABTG is similar will be meaningless, unless you have some inkling of Faulkner’s reputation which would then allow you to infer that the comparison is, at the very least, complimentary in some way. And if you have read AILD, the differences between the two books might seem more pertinent than the similarities. So, the point is this: I read and enjoyed ABTG *full stop*—but it also reminded me of a great book I had previously read and enjoyed. As to what conclusion about ABTG one might draw from this? I would suggest that before arriving at that conclusion, a reader should first find a copy of “At Bobby Trivette’s Grave,” read it, and then decide. (And read “As I Lay Dying,” too, if necessary.) Whatever you choose to do, I am confident you won’t be disappointed. And thanks again, Donna, for a really great read.