Set in rural Bethany, N.C., the eight pieces of Thornton's debut novel-in-stories mostly build off Gentry's death, incisively examining small-town life and the way that people inadvertently allow tragedies to unfold in their attempts to preserve social mores ... Thornton is especially adept at making us understand grief's varied forms ... Thornton takes her book's title (and Bethany's name) from the gospel of John's story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. But where the biblical story suggests that belief alone will allow someone to experience God's glory, Lord the One You Love Is Sick argues that far more is required to tackle the problems her characters face. Here, faith that things will work out only creates a willful blindness to reality.
A compulsively readable book about how easily tightknit communities can unravel ... Thornton takes an unflinching look at mental illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, small-town conservatism, and the empty promises of community. The novel’s alternating points of view allow her to effectively inhabit different characters. The novel’s only flaw is that some of the characters’ happy endings do a disservice to the depths of their suffering. A novel that may make you think again about what lies beneath the surface of your own community.
Thornton’s brutal, moody debut collection crafts a tapestry of hidden secrets and cruel undercurrents in rural Bethany, N.C., revolving around the heroin overdose of troubled 23-year-old Gentry ... More characters unravel with each successive story, which chronicle the deep and sprawling impact made by Gentry’s death as inner lives are exposed, unlikely friendships are forged, and gossipy whispers persist at the local diner. Thornton taps the vernacular, attitudes, and prejudices of small Southern townsfolk with eerie precision. These stories collectively coalesce into a resonant, emotionally searing nexus of hard truths, buried secrets, and emotional pain that readers won’t soon forget. Thornton’s accomplished stories are full of insights on their rural American setting and inhabitants’ psychology.