Country dark

Chris Offutt, 1958-

Book - 2018

Country Dark is a taut, compelling novel set in rural Kentucky from the Korean War to 1970. Tucker, a young veteran, returns from war to work for a bootlegger. He falls in love and starts a family, and while the Tuckers don't have much, they have the love of their home and each other. But when his family is threatened, Tucker is pushed into violence, which changes everything. The story of people living off the land and by their wits in a backwoods Kentucky world of shine-runners and laborer...s whose social codes are every bit as nuanced as the British aristocracy,

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Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Domestic fiction
Suspense fiction
Published
New York : Grove Press 2018.
Edition
First hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
231 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780802127792
0802127797
Main Author
Chris Offutt, 1958- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

It's been nearly 20 years since Offutt's Out of the Woods (1999), and his return to fiction will be celebrated by all readers of country noir. Tucker is a Korean War vet traveling home to rural Kentucky when he happens upon a young woman, Rhonda, being assaulted by an older man. He comes to her aid, and the two steal the man's car and embark on what will be a storm-tossed life ("Trouble came their way like sideways wind in winter") punctuated by powerful love and bursts of violence, always necessitated by threats to the separate peace Tucker struggles to maintain for Rhonda and their growing family, which includes several severely disabled children. Tucker's options in remote Kentucky are limited, but he falls into work as a bootlegger, until he's forced to take the rap for a moonshiner. When he returns from jail, Tucker finds Rhonda and the children imperiled on multiple fronts and must again protect his loved ones with the only tools he knows. Tucker is a true existential hero, facing his circumscribed world directly and acting with unflinching determination. His story, like the work of Daniel Woodrell, is both heartrendingly painful and unsentimentally uplifting. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists in 1996, Offut has been writing memoir but here cheers up literati everywhere by returning to fiction. Set in rural Kentucky, this novel stars Tucker, who works for a bootlegger when he returns from the Korean War. Threats to his loved ones propel him toward violence. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The talented Offutt here returns to rural Kentucky, the territory defining his fiction and memoirs. In 1954, 17-year-old Tucker arrives home from Korea with 11 medals, $400 in army pay, and 15-year-old Rhonda, who is about to become his wife. While other men head for Ohio factory jobs, Tucker stays in his beloved Kentucky hills and delivers moonshine for the local runner Beanpole. Over the next ten years, Tucker and Rhonda have six children, four severely disabled, and the devoted Tucker works the dangerous but well-paid job to provide for them. When an officious social worker threatens to institutionalize their children, Tucker metes out his own justice, an act of violence that Beanpole holds over him to force him to take the fall in a fake raid. If Tucker goes to prison for eight months, Beanpole will pay Rhonda's bills and give Tucker a big bonus. Once Tucker is imprisoned, however, a gang fight sends Tucker to maximum security for five more years. When released, he heads home to settle a few scores. VERDICT In Offutt's first work of fiction since 1997's The Good Brother, the award-winning author delivers a rich, compelling story of hardscrabble Kentucky mountain life while showing deep empathy for his careworn characters. [See Prepub Alert, 10/16/17.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Offutt's exceptional new novel (following his memoir My Father, the Pornographer) brings to light with gritty, heartfelt precision what one character, a social worker, calls the "two Kentuckys, east and west, dirt and blacktop." The book follows Tucker, Kentucky-born and -raised, as he returns home in 1954, a teenager fresh out of the Korean War. On his way, Tucker saves a 14-year-old girl, Rhonda, from being raped by her uncle. Tucker and Rhonda soon marry and set up house in his family's old cabin while Tucker finds work running moonshine across state lines. A decade later, Rhonda has had two miscarriages, as well as given birth to a hydrocephalic boy who wasn't expected to survive infancy, two baby girls who lie listless in some mysterious sedation, and one healthy girl named Jo. While Rhonda and Tucker hope God has a plan, "Rhonda couldn't see what this plan was other than a punishment. She loved the babies... but they were too bad off to love her back." This hard living drives the narrative, each heartbreak matched only by Tucker's steadfast determination to do right by his family. Offutt's prose cuts deep and sharp, but Tucker and Rhonda remain somewhat mechanical, despite the nuance of the language used to describe them. The novel, however, is an undeniable testament to the importance and clarity of Offutt's voice in contemporary American literature. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Apr.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A long-awaited novel by the award-winning author of The Good Brother is set in rural Kentucky between the Korean War and 1970 and follows the efforts of a young veteran and bootlegger who is pushed into a life-altering act of violence by threats against his family.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

In rural Kentucky in the years after the Korean War, Tucker, a young veteran and bootlegger, is pushed into a life-altering act of violence by threats against his family.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Chris Offutt is an outstanding literary talent, whose work has been called “lean and brilliant” (New York Times Book Review) and compared by reviewers to Tobias Wolff, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Carver. He’s been awarded the Whiting Writers Award for Fiction/Nonfiction and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award, among numerous other honors. His first work of fiction in nearly two decades, Country Dark is a taut, compelling novel set in rural Kentucky from the Korean War to 1970. Tucker, a young veteran, returns from war to work for a bootlegger. He falls in love and starts a family, and while the Tuckers don’t have much, they have the love of their home and each other. But when his family is threatened, Tucker is pushed into violence, which changes everything. The story of people living off the land and by their wits in a backwoods Kentucky world of shine-runners and laborers whose social codes are every bit as nuanced as the British aristocracy, Country Dark is a novel that blends the best of Larry Brown and James M. Cain, with a noose tightening evermore around a man who just wants to protect those he loves. It reintroduces the vital and absolutely distinct voice of Chris Offutt, a voice we’ve been missing for years.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Chris Offutt’s long-awaited return to fiction after nearly two decades, Country Dark is a fierce noir-inflected novel about a good man pushed by circumstance into crime.