Book Talk: The Possum King: A Novel by John Thomas Chiles


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One of the most impactful relationships a man could have is with his father. For many young boys, this relationship charts the course of his destiny, for better or worse.

John Thomas Chiles explores paternal relationships, crimes, and consequences in his book, The Possum King: A Novel. The book starts with fourteen-year-old Marcus Bishop. Growing up, he has always heard things said about his family, particularly about his father, Frank Bishop. He has always felt the mix of disdain and pity in the way they ask about how his mother is getting on. He always knew what they meant. He knows those sentiments very well as they, too, reside within him.

As Marcus awaits and his family awaits the return of his father from Vietnam, tensions rise. Unlike most boys whose fathers went away to war and against the nagging of his conscience, he has prayed for him never to return. He knows from his father's history that something terrible will happen once he comes back home. When a murder takes place in Clayton shortly after Frank's return, Marcus is faced with more internal and external turmoil. All this, as he is, is thrust with the obligation of saving his family from his father's storied yet unsavory past.

The Possum King is a multi-layered story set in three perspectives. One is the son's inner struggle with his relationship with his father. Second, is Frank's relationship with his family and his past. Third, is the lens through which the residents of Clayton views and interacts with the Bishops. At the core, it tells a story about a son and his father. Stepping back, it also paints a bigger picture of blood, violence, and its lasting effects on people.

Reviews and What Readers Say

" Compelling, it is worth to take your time and savor this one. "

— Frances Mehler, The BookWalker

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The Possum King: A Novel by John Thomas Chiles

472 Pages

ISBN 978-1796092523

Review by K Manis

Disclosure: This article is a personal endorsement of the professional reviewer. The BookWalker is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Though Possum King author John Thomas Chiles has worn many job titles from night club bouncer to pastry chef at world-famous Tavern On The Green, soldier, student, taxi driver, you name it, his heart has always belonged to the written word. Though he has wandered many places, he has always come home to the South, where he currently resides. His literary heroes are Donna Tartt, William Faulkner, and William Styron. He considers writing a kind nonsexual masochism in which the writer must subject himself or herself to derive any sort of self-actualization. In that way, the author believes, the writer finds his kinship to God.

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