A superbly told tale of trout and red herrings chased with vodka and Tang.
Over the past three years, Ned “Dog” Oglivie has fished most of the streams in North America (The Nail Knot, not reviewed), but he still hasn’t recovered from the bathtub drowning of his four-year-old son. As he camps in Avalanche, Wisc., home to the redneck Kussmaul clan and various Amish families—and temporary venue of artist Annie Adams and her second husband, Howard—Dog wallows in his loneliness, spends days fly-casting and nights drinking, and somehow strikes up a tentative friendship with Annie. Early one morning, he hears shots and rushes to find banned Amish woman Eve and King Midas Kussmaul’s ten-year-old son Deuce taking pot shots at Annie’s dead body and brashly announcing, “I killed her. Go tell somebody.” Well, why would he? wonders Dog, a question that entwines his life with those of Salt Box, Half-Timber, Uncle Roundy, old Ma Kussmaul, pipe-smoking Eve, nubile Dorcas and her strict Amish father, Freeman Yoder. Was Annie killed because of something she witnessed and painted at one of the Kussmaul barns? Matters are complicated by a peeping Tom, his creepy porno pictures and Dorcas’s romance with an “English,” Annie’s son Robin. But the climax is uglier and sadder, causing sweeping moral evaluations.
The tetchy xenophobia of Witness combined with the unbridled energy of Deliverance and a touch of The Compleat Angler: one helluva story.