The Poison Flood is a bizarre and fascinating read that proves that anything is possible in the capable hands of author Jordan Farmer. The novel is immediately engrossing, its characters uniquely memorable, its prose both heartfelt and stunning.
As the hunchbacked son of an abusive West Virginia preacher, Hollis Bragg is a smart, deeply talented musician, albeit lonely and self-conscious about his condition. He used to jam with popular musical group the Troubadoors and penned some of their songs for band member/girlfriend Angela Carver, but now he’s more than content to hide out at his isolated farmhouse away from curious neighbors, even as he silently yearns for their acceptance.
Into the mix comes obsessed fan Russell Watson, a member of a punk-rock group and the son of a wealthy local chemical manufacturer, as well as Rosita Martinez, a journalist looking to make a name for herself. Both coax Hollis into coming out of his shell and attending a concert in town, even as they maneuver to get closer to a stash of songs in Hollis’ private collection.
When a chemical disaster happens on the outskirts of town and poisons the local water supply, Russell goes into a rage against his father. Rosita, who photographs the violent ordeal, manages to escape with Hollis to his home, with Russell hot on their heels.
The novel takes a number of unexpected and thrilling turns as Hollis struggles with haunted memories of his past life with his father and his relationships with girlfriends past and present. The mix of situations and characters is admittedly odd, but Farmer more than manages to keep things grounded through Hollis’ close viewpoint.
The result is a story rich in compassion and empathy as Hollis tries to find his place in a world that would just as soon shun him and silence his dreams altogether.