Author takes audience on journey of despair and revenge

Author Percival Everett reads from his novel, "The Water Cure" at the American Book Review Reading Series at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Lane was small for her 11 years. She'd been playing outside her mother's house, riding her bicycle, when she was abducted, raped and killed.

"She'd been too young to truly imagine death, too young to have understood enough of life to cherish it, but old enough to have taught me to do so," her father says in the book, "The Water Cure."

Author Percival Everett took the audience at the American Book Review Spring Reading Series on Thursday into the woeful world of a man, divorced, musing on his daughter's death, and seeking revenge.

"I can still feel that haunting, hollow sensation, an ice lance at the back of my stomach, as if I had forgotten to eat, the cavity of my gut quiet and hard," he says of learning his daughter was missing.

Everett read excerpts from his 2007 book in a quick monotone, one that brushed through heavy scenes of despair as seamlessly as tangents of random contemplation.

In the book, a woman detective comes to the door to tell of two boys, 9 and 10 and across-the-street neighbors, who stumbled upon Lane's body in a ravine while walking a dog. The narrator gives an unexpected yet believable reaction.

"She had gone into so much detail ... that I found myself asking, without even knowing why or even that I was asking, 'What kind of a dog was it?'"

While skipping around scenes of deep and dark introspection, Everett includes unexpected and uneasy humor. For example, the dejected father whose empathy was well-earned eventually becomes the avenger, kidnapping the man who he thinks killed his daughter.

In a twisted scene of torment, the father offers up some limericks he'd written.

"There once was a man name of Reggie,

Who lived a life wild and quite edgy.

He poked the wrong youngun'

And now there is no one

To save him from becoming a veggie."

In a more animated question-and-answer session after Everett's readings, the author explained "The Water Cure" is an allegory about the United States, war and torture.

"The whole idea of revenge," Everett said. "Nobody is satisfied by an act of revenge."

Everett said he is not as much a natural storyteller as he is a conveyer of ideas.

He finished the reading and his book with a familiar tone and unsatisfying answers, again punctuated with dry wit.

"I ask only to find the answers I need, but then there are the other questions: Will my daughter grow older in my dreams? Why do reasonable people entertain the ontological argument? And what kind of a dog was it? And the answers are: No, because they can, and some kind of retriever."