Review by Jaye Fromkin
Author: Steve Cushman
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Let’s cut to the chase – I loved reading this book.
Cushman tracks the relationships of two fathers and sons: Jimmy Wills and his father, Truman, and Darren Webster and his son, Bobby. Jimmy, a house painter living in North Carolina, has been estranged from Truman since being sent to live with an aunt after his mother’s murder. Bobby has been rebelling against Darren since his mother left her drug-dealing husband. Ostensibly, this is a book about fathers and sons, but it’s really about mothers and sons, and the lifetime pull that formative relation has on a boy’s or man’s life. Out of the blue, Jimmy receives a call from Truman ordering his son to drive back to Portisville, Fla., and kill him. Is it to end Truman’s suffering from terminal cancer or is it to settle the death of Dot Wills, a crime for which Truman was tried and acquitted. After a life of small-time drug deals, Darren pulls up stakes and relocates Bobby away from where his mother has moved, destroying bobby’s unrealistic hope that his mother will return to them. The two fathers and their sons converge in a satisfying ending.
Portisville is rich in detail: descriptions of land and buildings, weather and characters both major and minor. The dialogue is naturalistic (with a few exceptions regarding Bobby), relationships, motivations, and leisurely action are wholly realistic. This is a portrait of people in the new South, trying to get by, some legally, some not; love, death, personal growth and stagnation.
Again, I loved reading this book and have enjoyed thinking about it since. I highly recommend “Portisville.”