All That I Have
The broad strokes are familiar: A crusty backwoods sheriff — laconically dispensing folksy wisdom and ?lamenting change — tracks a war-scarred trailer-park dweller who gets in over his head when he takes something that belongs to violent foreigners. Vermont, it seems, is no country for old men: All that’s missing is a cattle gun and a bowl-cut-wearing killer.
But where Cormac McCarthy’s tale had helpless players caught in the march of fate, pitted against pure evil, Castle Freeman Jr. depicts a world where everything is less stark and the body count is considerably lower in All That I Have. The vagaries of this slim whodunit are nearly irrelevant, and there’s no killer to scare the ?bejesus out of you. Instead, it’s the uneasy ambiguity, sustained for all 165 pages, that nonetheless mesmerizes. Sean, the dumb young tough who steals a safe from Russian heavies, is given a cursory but ?sympathetic backstory; the sheriff’s deputy, Keen, is cocky, ambitious, and a little bit vengeful; Sheriff Wing himself has a chip on his shoulder and questionable ideas about what makes a marriage work. ?The personalities aren’t necessarily likable, but they’re vivid, and you’ll want to figure out what makes them tick. The suspense generated by that almost makes up for the Chigurh-free ending. B