Bestselling novelist Lauren B. Davis balances horror, humor, and humanity throughout
the pages of Our Daily Bread. A gifted writer, Davis describes violence
and despair without bludgeoning her readers, thereby creating an unforgettable read,
frightening at times, but as enlightening and redemptive as it is disturbing. So
good, in fact, that this reviewer read the book twice, to savor again gems of prose
“It was one of those brilliant first days of true spring when the world heaved
itself out of the long silver somnolence of winter.” (p. 56)
“His clothes were pushed to one side. And on her side: empty hangers,
skeletons where the flesh of cloth had been.” (p. 122)
“Tom’s thoughts were dust devils, whirlwinds sucking up dirt from below
and shooting it up in a fierce scatter of possibilities.” (p. 157)
Many books tell us of unfathomable abuse of the powerless, particularly children,
against backdrops of extremity: poverty, ignorance, hypocrisy, ostracism. What
sets Our Daily Bread apart? Though inspired by the real-life Goler clan
of Nova Scotia, this novel spares readers the gratuitous salaciousness found in
certain memoirs and documentaries. Indeed, there’s far more narrative about
the daily lives of “the townies,” the Gideonites, than about the demented
Erskine clan of North Mountain.
Spellbinding chapters that describe the brutal lives on “the mountain”
begin and end this novel, sandwiching narratives about townspeople like Tom and
Patty Evans and their two children, Ivy and Bobby, and a matronly widow named Dorothy
Carlisle. The moral center of the story, Dorothy finds herself mentoring and protecting
10-year-old Ivy, despite her unwillingness to become involved with “children
and their war games.” Ivy’s steadfast father, Tom, struggles stoically
to take care of his family and to understand Patty’s restlessness. Why does
she continue to reject his marriage proposals?
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Bobby hooks up with an unlikely counselor in crime—22-year-old
burglar and dealer of the best weed around, Albert Erskine—yet conceals the
friendship from his parents and swears Ivy to secrecy as well.
Several of Gideon’s residents are hooked on what the Erskine clan is selling:
moonshine, marijuana, and meth. Not surprisingly, the children on the mountain suffer
most. Albert is no longer a child, yet his uncles remind him with their shotguns,
fists, and boots that Erskines don’t talk and they don’t leave. Townies
refer to Erskines as “those people,” lost for generations, so there’s
nothing can be done about it—except to isolate “Satan’s shit”
on North Mountain away from the pious residents below.
Events escalate and the story zooms in on Albert as he tries to protect Bobby and
the children, who are all, boys and girls alike, in danger of being raped and murdered
by fiends, the Erskine uncles maddened by meth. The book becomes a riveting page
turner as it rushes toward its fiery and surprising climax.