This book is dark and brutal, but it’s also magnificent. It’s the story of three generations of men hunting for deer on a family property in mountains in California in 1978, told by a man recalling when he was an 11-year-old boy. As they arrive, the men spot a poacher on the property. When the boy studies the man through the scope on his father’s rifle, he pulls the trigger, killing the poacher.
Family and friendship ties are tested as the boy’s father, grandfather and his father’s friend debate what to do about the incident.
Some of the dialogue and actions are almost Biblical in their intent, and even the boy muses to himself on the evil of Cain. The action takes place over just a few days and
Vann’s writing is some of the most exciting of recent years. Spare, emotionally charged yet tinged with the emptiness of the boy’s conscience – this story is full of implied and actual violence.
It will raise age-old arguments about good and bad, nature and nurture, and how good men sometimes put familial ties ahead of common decency.
Some of the most masterful writing is reserved for a description of how the boy kills and eviscerates his first buck.This is a high point of the novel, utterly earthy and elemental, particularly in its aftermath.
This book recounts brutal events, but it’s totally gripping.
Good for book clubs
Reviewed by Jennifer Somerville