You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

All are welcome at ‘The Heavenly Table’

Our world provides instant gratification. Some of us desire much and want it right away. Do you recall the days before we could even get online? Before dial up modems? That slower, gentler society. Not too long ago really.

Good things come to those who wait. Most of my favorite writers take their time. It can be years between books but if you really love an author’s work it is usually worth it. Donald Ray Pollock has just published his third book, “The Heavenly Table.” This book was worth the wait.

Pollock lives in Chillicothe — he came to the writing game late in life. His first book, “Knockemstiff,” a collection of short stories, came out in 2008. That book revealed a writer with a distinctive voice. It is dark and violent and filled with raw power. Some of those tales were so explosive that I felt like I had been slugged in the gut. They can leave one gasping with shock and admiration.

His second book “The Devil All the Time” came out in 2011. It was his first novel. In an interview at the time he said the novel form was a challenge for him as he transitioned from writing short stories. He agonizes and sweats over each word. He told me his next one would be set during World War I.

And so it is. “The Heavenly Table” takes place in 1917 as the United States is finally entering the war. As the story opens Pearl Jewett and his three sons, Cane, Cob, and Chimney, are eking out an existence as sharecroppers along the border of Georgia and Alabama. Times had been tough before Pearl’s wife died. After that they had little but hopes left and not very many of those.

The Jewett boys had one treasure though, a tattered dime store novel called “The Life and Times of Bloody Bill Bucket.” Cane, the oldest son, was the only one who could read. He entertains his brothers by reading the book to them. When their father suddenly dies the brothers are seized by an inspiration, they agree to emulate the exploits of their fictional hero Bill Bucket and become outlaws.

The Jewett Brothers transform themselves into legendary fugitives as they make their way slowly north to Ohio. Early chapters alternate between the adventures of the Jewetts and the story of an Ohio farm family, the Fiddlers, who are dealing with their own painful circumstances.

Pollock continues to braid ever more eccentric characters into his blazing tapestry. There’s an angry bartender who might be a serial killer. Pollock seems to have a thing for serial killers. There’s a military officer who is living a secret life as a sexual decadent. The most fabulous character of all is a white bird. This creature defies death, destroys doubt, and brings a faint flutter of hope to this chaos strewn canvas.

Last week the author told me that he had wanted to write “a yarn.” Yarns are funny. “The Heavenly Table” disgorges a smorgasbord of horrors yet this reviewer could not stop laughing. Agony can be hilarious. This book is Donald Ray Pollock’s masterpiece.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Cincinnati club shooting: Dispute ‘escalated into shots being fired’
Cincinnati club shooting: Dispute ‘escalated into shots being fired’

The investigation into the shooting inside a crowded Cincinnati night club that killed one and wounded 15 others early Sunday morning will take a long time, said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. No arrests had been made as of Sunday evening, and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac couldn’t confirm if any of the possible shooters were among those...
Madonna’s twins get first Barbie dolls, singer posts video
Madonna’s twins get first Barbie dolls, singer posts video

Madonna’s twins got their first Barbie dolls this weekend and the entertainer is sharing it with the world. >> Read more trending news The “Material Girl” posted adorable video of newly adopted twin daughters, Estere and Stelle playing with the dolls. In the short video posted on Instagram, the girls sang the Finger Family song...
Fairfield school board’s newest member: Business background an asset
Fairfield school board’s newest member: Business background an asset

Long-time school volunteer Carrie O’Neal’s path to a seat on the governing board of Fairfield Schools started with tragedy. In December, veteran school board member Jerome Kearns died. The father of three, who was also assistant director of Butler County Job and Family Services, then had his elected school board seat filled by a unanimous...
Cincinnati’s deadly night club shooting: What we know now
Cincinnati’s deadly night club shooting: What we know now

Early Sunday morning, gunfire broke out at the Cameo nightclub in Cincinnati, killing one man and wounding more than a dozen others. Here are five things we know now about this deadly shooting: The man who died in the shooting has been identified as O’Bryan Spikes, 27, of Cincinnati. There were 15 other victims wounded by gunfire, including two...
3 things to know about Cameo, site of deadly night club shooting
3 things to know about Cameo, site of deadly night club shooting

At least one person has died and another 15 were injured following a shooting at Cameo Night Club in Cincinnati early Sunday morning, according to the Cincinnati Police Department. Police were called to Cameo in the 4600 block of Kellogg Avenue around 1:30 a.m. on a report of a shooting. Here’s what we know so far about the night club. Cincinnati...
More Stories