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No country for old faint-hearts!,
This review is from: Outer Dark (Vintage International) (Paperback)
One of Cormac McCarthy's early novels, set in a rural landscape somewhere in a pre-modern Appalachia, "The Outer Dark" is a dark, disturbing story about Rinthy Holme's search for her lost baby, the product of an incestuous union with her brother Culla, who unknown to Rinthy, has abandoned the baby deep in the woods, telling Rinthy he died. The child, left to die, survives, rescued by a tinker.
There's no great depth - or twists - of plot in "The Outer Dark". Rather than plot-driven, the narrative cross-cuts intermittently between two separate journeys made by brother and sister - a structure that allows McCarthy scope at once to describe Rinthy (in search of lost child on discovery of Culla's lie) and Culla's wanderings in the landscape they pass through and the mixed-bag of eccentric, grotesque characters they encounter on their travels.
"The Outer Dark" is about a landscape and the people who inhabit it. Colourful set-pieces involving Rinthy and Culla, in encounters and 'run-ins' with 'crusty' locals - and cranky backwoods southerners often living in squalor in dilapidated shacks and isolated cabins deep in the woods - who cross their separate paths, are interspersed with sharp dialogue and sardonic wit.
A dark mood pervades this Southern Gothic novel. An early scene - where Culla flees the scene of his evil act, careering through the dark depths of the forest in full flight, hands outstretched before him "against whatever the dark might hold" - is heavy with portent, as if something dreadful, some unseen malevolent presence, were about. For Culla, whatever the 'dark' might hold, remains to be seen. And that sense of ominous foreboding continues through much of 'The Outer Dark'. Out of the 'dark' too, like outcasts straight from Hell, the coming of three terrifying figures roaming the land with murderous intent, manifested in the shock-horror violence of a gruesome, disturbing climax.
Welcome to Cormac McCarthy Country! Incest! Cannibalism! Shock-horror violence! Not for the squeamish. Too much perhaps for the faint-of-heart to endure. McCarthy's books are not 'easy reads', his style of writing may not be to everyone's taste. But If you enjoy the chilling walk through the 'dark' woods of "The Outer Dark", book up for another trip into McCarthy country with "Child of God" or "The Orchard Keeper". And with echoes of 'McCarthy Country', Castle Freeman's gripping short novel "Go With Me" takes the reader on a suspenseful mystery ride, tense with foreboding, deep into the bleak backwoods of Vermont. Good Reading!