work like any other

Work like any other is the melancholy tale of Roscoe T Martin from Alabama. He is one of the first to work in electricity in the 1920’s, when this wondrous power is harnessed, and slowly creeping through the rural farmlands. His passion for power is stunted however, when he has to give up his job to work on the farm his wife has inherited. It is here we find Roscoe conflicted by the duty and obligations of family, versus the loss of his passion and his true calling.

However, Roscoe’s life begins to turn around when Alabama power put up power lines right along the family farm. In a stroke of genius, Roscoe uses his expert skills to siphon the power into the farm and his family home. Life is good! The farm is profitable, his wife is warmer, his son is closer. Then tragedy strikes. Roscoe is sent to prison for manslaughter. The book follows Roscoe as he comes to terms with what happened, his life and friendships in prison, and the affect his crime has on his wife, only son, and workers on his farm.

This is a relatively short book, but there is a whole lifetime crammed into these 250 pages. Virginia Reeves writes carefully; conversations hang in the air and linger in your mind as you fall asleep. There are no wasteful words. Virginia conveys the multilayered and blurred lines of love life and family so delicately, your heart breaks for each one of these characters. There is an air of loneliness which hits all of us at some point in our lives, but poor Roscoe and his family seem to have been dealt a rather heavy hand.

Clever, understated and thoughtful. If you loved The Shawshank Redemption, this book is for you.

I surprised myself by giving this book a solid 4 out of 5

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The Book Jacket

In this astonishingly accomplished, morally complicated, “exceptional and starkly beautiful debut” (Kevin Powers, National Book Award–nominated author of The Yellow Birds), a prideful electrician in 1920s rural Alabama struggles to overcome past sins and find peace after being sent to prison for manslaughter.

Roscoe T Martin set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the twentieth century: electricity. It became his training, his life’s work. But when his wife, Marie, inherits her father’s failing farm, Roscoe has to give up his livelihood, with great cost to his sense of self, his marriage, and his family. Realizing he might lose them all if he doesn’t do something, he begins to use his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness. Even the love of Marie and their child seem back within Roscoe’s grasp.

Then a young man working for the state power company stumbles on Roscoe’s illegal lines and is electrocuted, and everything changes: Roscoe is arrested; the farm once more starts to deteriorate; and Marie abandons her husband, leaving him to face his twenty-year sentence alone. Now an unmoored Roscoe must carve out a place at Kilby Prison. Climbing the ranks of the incarcerated from dairy hand to librarian to “dog boy,” an inmate who helps the guards track down escapees, he is ultimately forced to ask himself once more if his work is just that, or if the price of his crimes—for him and his family—is greater than he ever let himself believe.

Gorgeously spare and brilliantly insightful, Work Like Any Other is “a striking debut about love and redemption, the heavy burdens of family and guilt, and learning how to escape them…Virginia Reeves is a major new talent” (Philipp Meyer, New York Times bestselling author of The Son). – See more at: