3 out of 4 stars
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The Last Real Hobo by Terry A. Albritton follows the story of Sisco Griffin, a drifter who settles for a while in the town of Hayden. When he stumbles upon a mutilated body inside a church, Leonard Sutter, the principal of the local school, helps him bury the body. Sisco is utterly besotted with Claire, a teacher in the primary school. Unfortunately, he soon finds himself mitigating the complicated chemistry between Leonard and Claire. He also becomes an unwitting pawn in a power game between the head janitor and the principal. With the discovery of two more mutilated bodies, the law enforcement officers will likely charge the vagrant worker with murder. Can Sisco save Leonard and himself from the unfounded accusations?
As a book predominantly featuring an itinerant population, this one delves deep into hobo mannerisms. Albritton frequently incorporates dialects and colloquialisms prevalent in hobo society. A glossary at the end of the book explains these unfamiliar terms to the reader. The novel mentions intriguing hobo codes and symbols. It portrays their traveling, eating, and sleeping habits in an authentic fashion.
Based on the accurate descriptions of the political backdrop and socio-political views prevalent during the 1950s, this book can be considered a well-researched period piece. From the gradually disappearing steam engines to the clash between Richard Nixon and Helen Douglas, the narrative stays true to the historical details.
I especially loved the characterization of the book. Although there are several prominent characters here, their idiosyncrasies make them easily distinguishable. For each of the characters, Albritton carefully sketches the darker sides as well, making them more realistic. The novel also shows how we are often unable to forego our vices despite knowing how they affect our lives.
My reading experience is, however, not without complaints. The pace is agonizingly slow. The timeline spans two years, but nothing much happens during that time. I became weary of the same routine Sisco followed day after day. Also, the murders remained unsolved, the perpetrators unidentified. Albritton chose not to tie up the loose ends, leaving too many unanswered questions. The abrupt ending failed to bring closure. It seemed that the book could go on for a few more chapters, but the author suddenly decided to end it and hastily placed an epilogue.
All things considered, I rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars. A few technical errors did not detract from the reading experience. I would recommend this to readers who appreciate historical fiction. However, the book includes adult contents, including rape, sexual encounters, and adultery. Therefore, this work is unsuitable for a younger audience.
The Last Real Hobo
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