Scarred by the past and by the tragic accident that destroyed his family, Pete Butcher finds salvation from his aimless, isolated, and hopeless life through the determined love of his next-door neighbor, Sarah Leamer. 15,000 first printing. Tour.
The story focuses on the relationship between the lead character Pete Butcher and Sarah Leemer. This relationship is handled with delicacy and insight by Crews and takes on spiritual qualities by the end of the novel. As Pete comes to terms with his guilt Sarah unfolds as a strong, tender and courageous woman who helps Pete through the process of healing. In and of itself this relationship offers the reader an opportunity to observe the regeneration of a man from one weighed down by tremendous suffering and isolation to one who's willing to open up and confront not only his personal demons but also have them exorcised. There's certainly an element of human understanding in this book and it's through Pete and Sarah's relationship that we experience it.
The problem is with the characters that surround this relationship, some of whom often seem implausible or cartoonish and at times even irrelevant to the validity of what's going on with Pete and Sarah. The absurd and grotesque are elements of Southern fiction which in the past have been used to effectively demonstrate qualities of the human condition, but here they fail to do so. While encountering some of the characters in this book I found nothing in them in which I could identify some substantial idea or human trait. They more often obscured or hindered the story rather than enhancing it, their superficiality conflicting with the grander aims of the book.
I'm sure this isn't what Crews intended but nonetheless it's how I viewed it.
Although I thought the book had its problems I still think that Harry Crews has talent and therefore I intend to read some of his other work.
Seemingly against his will, Pete is pulled into the lives of the strange neighbors next door. The first one he meets is Sarah Leemer, a tall, beautiful, mysterious girl with a few problems of her own. She lives with her parents who are equally strange. As she draws Pete into her life, we begin to see the changes she affects in him. His life which was empty soon begins to fill again.
Crews introduces us to his usual array of odd southern folks and a Jamaican couple George and Linga find their way in as well. The story is often touching in little ways, and we never stop hoping that Pete somehow finds some happiness. The title 'Scar Lover' is very fitting, as each character has been scarred in different ways, emotionally and physically. Harry Crews is an accomplished writer who deserves more recognition.