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Appalachia can be a brutal place. An old ginseng hunter comes upon a woman’s body in a holler. Mick, on leave from the Army, is pulled into the case but discovers all sorts of scurrilous connections with the powers that be. He ends up AWOL as the case drags on, complicated by his wife’s pregnancy and suspicions about paternity. He’s a complex character which gives the book dimension way beyond who dun it, and Offutt brings us deep into the beauty and squalor of the landscape and its denizens.
A memoir in the form of essays that made my heart beat faster—what a fresh, direct voice! Cindy was a heroin addict, had a brief, troubled first marriage which produced a son, Atlas, got clean, and now tells it like it is, with unflinching honesty and grace. She’s also an artist and some pieces have charming illustrations. Once a student in David Sedaris’s writing class, she now opens for him periodically. Wow!
Dystopian sci-fi with a plague released from a Paleolithic body researchers have uncovered in the Arctic Circle. Societal responses verge on grotesque. Like a Disney-like theme park where moribund kids take a final ride to stop their suffering. A pig, subject of one of many desperate experiments, develops a human voice and consciousness along with it. A spaceship is launched through millennia to find a habitable planet now that Earth seems doomed, passengers frozen in suspension. Tender interactions play out to soften and lighten the weight of disaster and by the end I felt we might just go high enough in the dark to get through this nightmare. Ingenious and mesmerizing.
This is a book I never would have come across except I was so intrigued by Jane Campion’s recent film version that I was curious about the original source. It’s a Western in which two mismatched brothers come to grief when one gets married. Phil is brilliant, acerbic, and introverted; he refers to his younger brother as Fatso. But when Fatso brings his bride and her effete, peculiar college-bound son Peter to the ranch, tensions become unbearable. Because for all his homophobic asides, Phil is inexorably, covertly drawn to Peter. Set in Montana in the 20’s with an enlightening afterward by Annie Proulx. Glad I read it and surprised about the differences between book and film.