Twenty-one-year-old Albert Erksine grew up in the impoverished and isolated boonies of North Mountain where he received his share of backwoods battering and brutality: incest, sodomy, burns, and lashings. He lives in the small cabin he eventually built on the family compound only so the younger children of the clan now suffering the same fates would have a refuge and perhaps a protector. Meanwhile, he puts the rest of his efforts into not perpetuating tradition by becoming one of "The Others," the subsistence sisters and brothers, dilapidated mothers and barely-there fathers, the “sex for meth” Uncles. “What more was expected of him?” Albert wondered. “Why did he wake up in the morning feeling like the best thing ahead of him was a long jump and a short rope?”
In the cohesive flow and solidly structured narrative of Lauren B. Davis’ absorbing, strikingly-written, and subtly-honed Our Daily Bread (due Oct. 1) — part family drama, part psychological novel — the author draws on real life events surrounding the Goler Clan in Nova Scotia, where she lived briefly and heard accounts “about a community up on a nearby mountain. They were terrible stories, involving incest, aborted and deformed babies, prostitution, bootlegging and so forth.”
These days the scourge of choice is methamphetamine, not moonshine, and the Erksines and other mountain clans see opportunity approaching from headlights on the hairpins. When it comes to the kids and other caught-in-the-crossfire innocent, the good citizens of the valley town below, Gideon, largely pay no heed to the violent and compassionless treatment brought to bear by the transgressions of their abusive tweaked-out backwoods neighbors, considering them beyond charitable help and redemption. Even the parishioners of the influential Church of Christ Returning seem to cling more to gossip than God.
Nevertheless, Albert retains lifelines with a couple of Gideonites. Widowed antique shop owner Dorothy Carlile has secretly brought food and books for the disadvantaged in the area for years – the books mostly literature pounced upon and devoured by Albert. And Albert has also come to befriend standard-issue disaffected youth Bobby Evans, “middle class townie” but product of an ever more dysfunctional family when his rather lofty and aloof mother inexplicably takes off with a Corkum – a member of another mountain family perhaps a notch or two above an Erksine – leaving his decent and hard-working father Tom shattered but unable to pick up the pieces. Rounding out the Evans family is 10-year-old Amy, also devastated by the desertion, who finds solace and diversion when Dorothy befriends her and has her help out in the antique store.