Above All Men reviewed
on Books, Personally

Eric’s debut novel, Above All Men, received a thoughtful, in-depth review by Jennifer Messner of the Books, Personally book-review blog. The review in its entirety contains several book-plot spoilers, but here are the spoiler-free highlights of the review:
When a country collapses, what becomes of a man—not only materially, but morally? In Eric Shonkwiler’s Above All Men (forthcoming from MG Press in 2014), David Parrish is a husband and father, recently returned from a war that has left America stretched and stressed to near-breaking. When a powerful storm destroys the country’s oil rigs, a domino chain of natural and man-made events is set in motion that challenges Parrish and his family’s survival and that tests Parrish’s soul.

Parrish, his wife, and child live on a farm somewhere in the Midwest [ ... ]. Parrish is a stoic, capable man in the way that farmers and military men often are, with a strong sense of loyalty and duty, one that often leaves him torn between his family and others in need. [ ... ]

“Shonkwiler creates a very distinctive and memorable story. The landscape is bleak but striking, full of haunting images. We practically breathe in the dust that rises up out of nowhere, beautiful and terrifying.”

[ ... ] Shonkwiler creates a very distinctive and memorable story through his own writing of it. The landscape is bleak but striking, full of haunting images—fields and mines, small towns and old farmhouses, coyotes and dusters, and big sky; and one feels Parrish’s elemental connection to the place. The details bring the reader close into the small moments of the story: We walk the fence line with Parrish, feeling the sharp edge of wire and the rough of wood; we practically breathe in the dust that rises up out of nowhere, beautiful and terrifying, coating everything in its path and smothering out the crops. We share his sense of foreboding and feel his fierce love for his family. The author’s careful pacing very effectively conveys the slowing of time in a world without machinery (and eventually without electricity or running water) and the straightforward, unadorned narrative, too, reflects a world and a man stripped down to their cores. [ ... ]

Above All Men is a somewhat intense read, testament to the portrayal of this future world, which is not all that comfortably far-fetched. It is one, sadly, we could envision, and it made me rather conscious of my dependency on modern conveniences and even a little anxious about them. But it also left me thinking that if the world were to collapse, you would sure want to know a guy like David Parrish.”