The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling By now I'm sure you have read the reviews stating that this is not like Harry Potter, that this is an adult book, that it's a departure from what Rowling is known for, yada yada... Saying all that is really an understatement that doesn't need to be repeated. This book in one word is brutal and I mean that in the best way possible.

The Casual Vacancy is centered on Barry Fairbrother who ends up dying and becomes our omnipresent hero who everyone in the town likes. Quite frankly, he’s the only likeable character in this large cast of characters. It seems like he’s the only one with any redeeming qualities, but then again Barry is dead so we never get his viewpoint and we usually remember those who died fondly. Anyway, I digress…Through this huge cast of characters Rowling presents a gritty story touching on many themes like town politics, gossip mongers, bullies, cutting, betrayal, etc.

To me the beauty of this book is how Rowling is able to weave this tale and really show off her writing chops. There are many writing elements that together would fail miserably in the hands of a lesser author. For example, the characters are so multidimensional that there is no clear hero or villain. Just like real life these characters are going about their lives and we are getting only a glimpse of it. The only one I can claim a hero is Barry, but again that is because we never get a chance to see any of his negative thoughts. Another example is that there are a slew of characters and yet never once did I question whose viewpoint I was reading. Sometimes within one paragraph the viewpoint would change. Rowling handled it flawlessly. She was also able to describe situations perfectly. This is one of my favorite quotes: "Krystal's slow passage up the school had resembled the passage of a goat through the body of a boa constrictor, being highly visible and uncomfortable for both parties concerned."

I’ve read some of the reviews and have discussed the book with various people in the GR community. I’ll just say this book is not for everyone. It is a very character driven book where on the surface it seems like nothing is happening, but by the end a little trickle has turned into a full blown flood and you don’t even know how it got that way despite staring at it the whole time. And yes, this book has a lot of cussing. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a community much like the Fields surrounded by the Krystals of the world, but to me this was realistic speech. Some of the characters are jaded, others are angry, others are uneducated and look sometimes there isn’t anything more expressive than a good old rip roaring “fuck” to express yourself. I think people are just surprised because it’s coming from such a wholesome source, but go out to the ghetto anywhere in the world and you’ll hear the same type of language.

The only reason why I didn’t bump the rating to 5 stars was because I found the ending to be a little melodramatic. Did it fit the story? Yes, it did. But I just wanted a bit of happiness. I have to give it to Rowling though for keeping it real. Anyway, I don’t have much more to say on this one other than give this one a try with an open mind.