Vernon God Little is a teenager who lives in the small town of Martirio with his widowed mother. The book of the same name is a first person narrative of about one year of Vernon's life after tragedy strikes his town. His close friend kills himself after performing a shoot out at his school, killing most of his class mates. Vernon automatically falls into the line of suspicion as he is a close friend of the killer and was supposedly present at the scene of tragedy when the killings took place. The onus is on Vernon to prove his innocence in the face of an angry and grieving society hungry for an easy target. The police team begin their probe with the presumption of his guilt, the media find for the lonesome Vernon the convenient label of 'psychopath'. Vernon's lifestyle comes under intense public scrutiny. In the face of such odds, Vernon decides to run away- only to be caught in the act by the police. The last half of the novel is a gripping movie thriller as we watch his lawyer fight his case to prove his innocence.
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Set in contemporary North America, the novel reveals the elements of disintegration in the social and familial fabric. Drug abuse, sexual abuse, violence have all been experienced by Vernon at the tender age of fifteen. His widowed mother is a lonely woman fervid for male company. Consumerism is rampant as even the fate of prisoners are sold as entertainment.
The novel has a language that shocks the reader out of his sense of social security.”You don't know how bad I want to be Jean-Claude Van Damme. Ram her fucken gun up her ass, and run away with a panty model.” Liberally sprinkled with swear words and curses, the novel effectively rips apart any veneer of camaraderie that may be associated with human relationships. The ugly face of selfishness and vicious opportunism is revealed as each individual, including Vernon's mother, wields Vernon's case to grab a carrot for themselves. At one point, Vernon's mother tells the press: "even murderers are loved by their families you know."
This novel is unlike anything I have read so far. The after taste is something like what I felt after watching the movie 'American Beauty' though of course the themes of these two works are wide apart. Reality strikes you like a wet sock across the face.
Book Reviewed by Ashmita Saha
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