Big Ray; Michael Kimball
Bloomsbury - 2013
I have to admit, it was the title and cover with the oversized sunken chair that first attracted me to this book. I hadn't read any reviews prior to beginning this short novel (fewer than 200 pages), and had no idea what to expect.
The story is told through a series of short entries, by Daniel Todd Carrier, the 38 year-old son of Big Ray, now deceased. Big Ray and Daniel's mother were divorced years earlier, and Big Ray, who toppled the scale at 550 lbs, died alone in his small apartment. His body was found by his landlord who went to collect the rent at the beginning of the month.
From each entry it is easy to see that Daniel is struggling over his father's death and the fact that he died alone. Each entry adds a piece to the puzzle about the man Big Ray was. A crude and difficult husband and father, Big Ray grew up poor and as an adult took his anger out on his family and others. Bitter and angry, he basically ate himself to death as a result of health complications from his morbid obesity.
The entries also shed light on the kind of man Daniel was: sensitive and kind in contrast to his bigger in life "bully" of a father, the man that Daniel was, deep down, embarrassed to call "dad". All his life he longed for his father to show some sign of love, but that just never happened. Some of the entries are disturbing, very sad and difficult to read. Although this was a work of fiction, it felt more like a memoir, and a theraputic effort written by someone trying to move beyond grief.