The setting of Philipp Meyer's rivetting debut novel is a Pennsylvania steel town named Buell. The two main characters Isaac English and Billy Poe have been best friends since High School. Both young men have a fervent desire to escape the ailing and decayed steeltown of their birth. The storyline takes a sinister and surprising turn early on when the two friends have a chance encounter with three homeless men, which quickly turns ugly and has serious consequences for them both for the rest of the novel.
The writing is viivd and conjures up a specific time and place. All the characters are trapped in some way in their circumstances and the book's title is wonderfully reflective of the decay and disintegration both of the town itself and (some of) its inhabitants. A beautifully written first novel about coming of age and undertaking a moral journey where some painful lessons about life and friendship are learnt. Highly recommended.