East of Denver. Gregory Hill. Dutton: Penguin Group (USA) Inc. July 2012. 212 pages hardback. ISBN #: 9780525952794.
Shakespeare Williams (SW) (real name Stacey but no one ever calls him that) is on his way home because his cat has been murdered and he must be buried on home ground next to other beloved animals who met their demise earlier. No, there are no tears; SW just puts the dead animal in the car and begins the trek to Colorado. When he gets there, he hope to just visit but discovers, after the burial, that his father is definitely shows signs of senility, including handing over hundred dollar bills for a small grocery bill and not knowing that a missing friend is right in the house in a most uncommunicative pose. No, it's all proceeding quite lightly!
The narrator knows he can't leave his father alone, even more so after he discovers his father is the victim of a nefarious character, with the results that farm, tools, Shakespeare's Cessna, all are gone to the hands of a banker Mike Crutchfield who is not a local. What to do? First while he's thinking about it, he gets back in touch with former friends like Vaughn who loads brownies with a heavier substance than pot and is severely handicapped.
Then there's Clarissa McPhail, a starting pitcher for the local softball team who knows more than she initially admits to Shakespeare - after a lot of distracting and irritating events occur. And there's D. J. Beckman, crook extraordinaire, whose interests in life barely graze the legal side of any event or possibility. So getting even with Mr. Crutchfield - via a bank robbery? - could be the balm that heals everyone's angst against the rich man who holds power over so many - and who destroys so many honest, decent and simple farmers who trust his oily rapport until it's too late.
Read on and discover that there's no malice - not on the surface anyway - in this bunch and the reader can't help rooting as this motley group plan their revenge on Crutchfield. Will it really happen? Then a serious event happens leading to loss, grieving and real rage at the stupidity of the one who caused this mess. Then we begin to get that no matter how blase a person or occurrence seems, he, she, and-or it really matters! Order must be brought back with a very specific act! Yet it's hilariously accidental and disorderly, and the reader couldn't predict what happens in a million years!
East of Denver is a light-hearted look at how one approaches multi-layered crises and simple responses. And who says there's anything wrong with a happy ending!!! Cleverly plotted and well-written, this is a must read!