This story was very depressing. Like, bleak pits of despair depressing. Chuck Wendig takes all the good things in the world and beats them up for their lunch money, which he then spends on drugs and alcohol for underage victims of abuse. Sympathy is almost required for Atlanta Burns, but at the same time, it’s difficult to like reading about her life. Shotgun Gravy is a perfect exercise for readers who like their noire extra black.
I’m not particularly fond of the clipped style of sentence structure Wendig uses. It would have been more tolerable had the book been in first person, but with a limited, third-person narrator, the style seems more artificial. I admit to being addicted to long, meandering sentences that belong more in Victorian novels than they do in contemporary works. Nevertheless, the staccato beats that pepper Shotgun Gravy tried my patience. Combined with the dark subject matter and dark tone in general, I spent much of the book wondering why I bothered to keep reading.
It’s not that it’s like a train wreck. I could have looked away.
It’s not that there’s something ultimately rewarding or redeeming about Atlanta’s story. There isn’t. She doesn’t undergo any great epiphany as a result of helping victims of bullying. If anything, things get worse for her.
I don’t really know why I kept reading. I just did. Then I went ahead and read Bait Dog too, and that wasn’t exactly a bucket of laughs either.
If you like this sort of thing, there is no reason to avoid it. Wendig is skilled at character studies in self-loathing. (To be honest, though, I found the minor characters less than three-dimensional.) Shotgun Gravy is about Atlanta’s slow road towards the on-ramp towards the service entrance for a detour near the road to recovery. As a result, it’s a slow but tightly-packed narrative, and those who stick it out will be rewarded.
If you prefer puppy dogs and rainbows though, this is not the book for you.
(This is a rather brief review, but my review of Bait Dog is slightly more extensive.)