Brian Francis Slattery’s keen omniscience delivers the crime story of a century, a tale grounded on history and fact—obscure Americana, strange third world realities—taking the reader from 1995 Cleveland to 1986 Sub Saharan Africa before traveling back to prohibition and a 20th century historical tour of Ukraine and Romania. Where and when are we? We are all times and all places, because this American Dream is an eternal, global dream about getting rich however you can.
The narrative rings true on its details: the book of proverbs from a market in Onitsha, Nigeria, titled Learn to Speak 360 Interesting Proverbs and Know Your True Brother; the Mad Butcher’s discarded human torso, “a woman’s, wrapped in heavy brown paper, a striped summer coat, and a quilt. The thighs are right under it, bundled in the same paper and held together with a rubber band”. The banal turned extraordinary by juxtaposition to the horrible.
“Do you see it now?” the narrator asks. “Where the spine of the story begins and ends? Call it capitalism. Call it American…” To Peter, the Ukrainian-American patriarch, the founder of the family Hightower’s wealth, “Being American is an idea, not an identity. It means you’re rising, progressing, moving forward….”
Keen insight, superb pacing. History, culture, brutality, money. There’s Slattery’s American Dream. What a read.
The Family Hightower
By Brian Francis Slattery
Seven Stories Press, September 9, 2014
Reviewed by Ben East