My conscience says that I should start with a Spoiler Alert but with a condition: this book’s plot will only be news to you if you’ve never read Sophocles or heard of an oedipal complex or if you don’t read dust jackets.
Now that I’ve covered my ass liability-wise here’s what you need to know, David Guterson’s Ed King is his re-imagining of the tale of Oedipus Rex. For those of you that are brilliant with word play you already knew this based on the protagonist’s name: Ed King. Ed Rex…Oedipus Rex. I didn’t read the dust jacket so was halfway through the book before I realized ‘oh, he’s Oedipus’ (don’t mock).
It takes a great talent to surprise an audience when they already know the outcome of a story. Whatever you may have thought of Jim Cameron’s Titanic you’re lying if you say you weren’t on the edge of your seat as that ship started to sink. It’s the same thing with Ed King. And yet, you will forget, you will suspend belief, you will be so completely sucked into the vortex of this tale you’ll forget what you already know. When the dénouement came I burst out laughing (I have a twisted sense of humor) because, thanks to Guterson’s story-telling abilities, my thinking mind had forgotten I already knew exactly what was happening. Brilliant.
Ancient, twisted plot aside Ed King is a unique blend of beautiful writing, perfect pacing and emotionality. Guterson produces a prodigious cast of multi-layered characters from a philandering birth father to ne’er-do-well siblings, amoral girlfriends, the well-meaning adoptive parents and the hero himself. His cast lives and breathes and you want to know what happens to each and every one of them- a desire the author fulfills by-and-large (I was certain psychiatrist Theresa Pierce had more to say but sadly she remained silent).
This book may not be your cup of tea, namely because it’s more like a double shot of scotch but if you’re in the mood for something bold, with a kick, then Ed King will be your drink of choice.