My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tim Parrish‘s first novel is gripping from the first chapter to the last. More than just a good read, The Jumper broaches important themes for our day. The portrayal of the main character, Jimmy, is spot-on. His means of coping with being illiterate dovetail nicely with his biological father J. T.’s gambling addictions. If you’re familiar with Tim Parrish’s previous collection of short stories, Red Stick Men, or his memoir, Fear and What Follows, then you won’t be surprised to find a troubled father-son relationship at the center of the novel. In fact, Jimmy, an orphan, has several surrogate parents in the novel and none are completely faultless, though Parrish also finds a way to get us to sympathize, at least at moments, with all of his characters. Race is an undercurrent of both the main narrative (J.T., on the run from his creditors, now lives in a shotgun shack in a poor Black neighborhood of Baton Rouge) and in the flashback scenes of J.T.’s life before Jimmy was born. While the suspenseful plot keeps you turning pages like a thriller, the book also contains deep insights into a cross-section of American life that we don’t often encounter in fiction. Parrish’s portrayal of this Southern industrial city is both loving and disturbing, and at every moment it feels absolutely real. This book ought to be required reading for any lover of Southern fiction or indeed any lover of twenty-first century realism.