A middle aged man is coming to terms with his father’s death and in fact his life. Big Ray is not a nice man; his size and his temper define him. So when he dies, Daniel is mostly relived but it is still the death of his father. “For most of my life I have been afraid of my father. After he died, I was afraid to be a person without a father, but I also felt relieved he was dead. Everything about my father seem complicated like that.”
Big Ray is Daniel’s attempts to recount his father’s life, each paragraph is a single thought that slowly piece together a sense of who Big Ray was; at least in the eyes of his son. This narrative style works really well, you experience the emotions Daniel has and it really drives the story along with the mystery and sometimes randomness of his thoughts.
This is a brutal novel. Daniel ultimately hates his father; from the abuse as a child to trying to understand him as an adult. You can see the pain and hurt come through in the narrative, but there is still a tenderness and sadness at the loss of his father. All relationships are not as they seem; there are the unusual and even unsettling truths of Big Ray but then you have the little glimpses of what might be considered love towards his father.
I read this book in one sitting, not something I normally do. From the very start I was hooked, the narrative style just has nice balance between tenderness and brutality, beauty and mystery. I’m a little concerned for author Michael Kimball because that pain and anger Daniel had towards his father felt way too real. Highly emotional and disturbing; the internal conflict of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship was captured really well in this novel.