Placing itself perfectly alongside acclaimed work by Philipp Meyer, Jane Smiley and J M Coetzee, this debut novel charts the story of Roscoe T Martin in rural Alabama in the 1920s. Roscoe has set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the 20th century: electricity. It becomes his training, his life’s work. But when his wife Marie inherits her father’s failing farm, Roscoe has to give it up, with great cost to his pride and sense of self, his marriage and his family. Realising that he might lose them all, he uses his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness on a farm recently falling to ruin. Even the love of Marie and their son seems back within Roscoe’s grasp. Then everything changes. A young man is electrocuted on their land. Roscoe is arrested for manslaughter and – no longer an electrician or even a farmer – he must now carve out a place in a violent new world.
The title of this novel, Work Like Any Other, captured my attention for many reasons and so did the main character, Roscoe T. Martin—a well-meaning husband and father who paid an enormous price for his effort to provide security for his family and make the farm financially viable.
The setting in rural Alabama, USA, in the 1920’s, depicts the difficult times farmers had without electricity. It is this difficulty that encouraged Roscoe to illegally connect electricity to his family farm. His efforts, however, were also his downfall and he is caught and sentenced to many years in prison.
As for the other characters in this story, Roscoe’s wife was not worth the love he bestowed on her and as I read I hoped she would get what she deserved. I cannot say if she did or didn’t because that will spoil the story.
The author, Virginia Reeves, has written a story full of emotion–from guilt to atonement. Roscoe accepts responsibility for his actions but he did not deserve the cruelty he suffered at the hands of inmates and the prison system of the day.
The story, though historical with the 1920’s period, is told in a very contemporary style and while fictional, at times I thought it was a real life story.
Congratulations to the author for such a well crafted and enjoyable novel.
Well worth the read.