north of oxford novella review

The Bloody Waste by Red Focks

bloody waste cover

By g emil reutter

In The Bloody Waste, Red Focks captures the complexity of the new United States. The novella is driven by a cancer diagnosis of the main character, Greg Redford. There is nothing cliché in this novella. Focks uses the diagnosis as a back drop to issues from health care debt, inter cultural marriage, homelessness, drug addiction, of a family scraping by under the radar and generational political conflict within families. His characters are fully developed and tension drives each and every page.

Greg’s wife, a Mexican immigrant ironically named America is a strong female, the mother of two who deals with Greg’s light hearted reaction to his diagnosis with strength and worry. Greg’s step son is a DACA child and when his America First parents visit, she confronts them and to their shock calls them racist, not in a bitter manner but a matter of fact manner that they deny.

Focks beautifully captures the love between America and Greg as well as the interactions of their family, Nehemiah who has only known Greg as his father and the newborn, Poetry, who drove Greg to disavow drug use.

Focks artfully utilizes flashbacks to tell the backstory of Greg’s struggle with drugs, homelessness and hoboing across the United States to Arizona. Equally he captures the strength of America, his wife who gave birth to Nehemiah as a single mother abandoned by the father of her child. He meets his wife while working as a vendor on the streets of Phoenix, an immediate connection and soon they are living in a trailer on the outskirts of society, married, raising a family. They get by selling artful tee shirts on line.

Focks use of language is sometimes gentle, often harsh and in the use of this language reflects the struggle of everyday Americans. The Bloody Waste lays bare the struggling working class of America in a time when the 1% consolidate wealth leaving the majority on the edges of the American dream.

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