Jeannette was molested by a neighborhood pervert. Later, when her parents resolved to throw themselves on the slim mercies of Rex's family, they moved to West Virginia -- to a vile hamlet along a river distinguished by having, her father proclaimed, ''the highest level of fecal bacteria of any river in North America'' -- where Jeannette was groped by an uncle. A visit to the zoo ended when Rex and his daughter reached inside the cheetah's cage to pet the giant cat, while a family holiday erupted in flames as prankish Dad set the Christmas tree ablaze with his cigarette lighter.
Along the way, the children enjoyed a characteristically idiosyncratic version of home schooling. Their mother taught them reading and the health advantages of drinking unpurified ditch water, while their father explained ''how we should never eat the liver of a polar bear because all the vitamin A in it could kill us. He showed us how to aim and fire his pistol, how to shoot Mom's bow and arrows, and how to throw a knife by the blade so that it landed in the middle of a target with a satisfying thwock.'' Walls recalls that ''by the time I was 4, I was pretty good with Dad's pistol, a big black six-shot revolver, and could hit five out of six beer bottles at 30 paces. . . . It was fun. Dad said my sharpshooting would come in handy if the feds ever surrounded us.'' Surely it suggests something about our educational system that whenever the Walls children did attend school they turned out to be academically ahead of the local kids, who tormented them for their outsider oddness.
I've read many Le Carre's and this one close to halted me.
Boring to the enth degree.
Someone like the earlier Nick Nolte would be a better match,