Thursday, April 24, 2008

Read for Book Group: "Finn" by Jon Clinch

Read for Book Group: Finn by Jon Clinch, 2007, 9781400065912.

Novel about Twain's Pap Finn, father of Huckleberry. This received all sorts of positive reviews and Best of the Year listings but I likely would have quit early if it was not a book club item. The novel did not get all that interesting until about halfway in.

I do not remember much about Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer. But, I do remember Pap Finn as being a very scary fella. I should re-read those books. Pap is a drunkard who never got along in school or with his family and after taking up with a black woman, Mary, was disowned by his virulently racist father whom everyone calls the Judge. Of course Pap is a racist too and although he wants to be welcomed back into his father's fold he is unable to leave Mary or knuckle under to the Judge. He's unable to change at all and does not want to (as I was reminded by a Crider post), he just wants money to buy more whiskey.

Finn knocks up the girl, a former slave girl, and has Huckleberry. For a time Finn seems content with both woman and boy. He refuses to send the kid to school and makes his living off the river, mainly by fishing. After Finn beats and stabs a man who comments on Huck's black heritage the Judge sends him to prison for twelve months. Mary takes on debt to survive and Finn just gets madder and madder after his release over the debts (especially to blacks), questions of her fidelity, and the fact he could not keep her under his thumb. He drinks more and more, beats Mary about, and gives them no money for food.

Mary and Huck eventually split town and end up down and across the river at the Widow Douglas' place. Mary returns from Missouri - a slave state - to avoid being "claimed" as property and ends up with Finn. Finn strangles her, skins her - to remove the black skin he cursed himself with - and throws her in the river.

For the tally: Finn assists in the kidnapping, rape and murder of a black boy. Beats up a child. Steals numerous skiffs. Strangles a hired hand of his father. Rapes Mary and keeps her as prisoner. Kidnaps his son from the widow and keeps him prisoner. Drinks whiskey all the time. Neglects to properly treat a gunshot victim who bleeds to death.

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