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What does the reader know about Truitt Scott, the protagonist of Mac Hyman's spare and rather compelling novel? Not very much more than any citizen of the South Georgia town in which Truitt was born and bred, in which he married, opened a healthy business, and raised his boy Jeff. Truitt's fiercely independent, laconic, stubborn, and minds his own business. At the time he married his wife Nan, she was engaged to another man. That man now practices law in Truitt's town. When there was a polio epidemic and Jeff wanted to go swimming, Truitt's insisted against Nan's pleas, that Jeff go. Won't do to make the boy afraid of things; he got to learn not to hide in the house. So Jeff swims, comes down with polio, and wears a brace on his leg. Nan and Truitt don't speak or live as man and wife for some time after Jeff gets sick. She finally goes back to her old flame, is discovered with him by a bitter Negro who tells Truitt. Truitt kills the man because it's the only thing a cuckold husband can do. Then when Jeff comes to see him in jail, he requests some time alone with the boy and kills him. It seems he had some kind of pact with God, and God had told him ""Take Now Thy Son.""...The problem with this novel is no different from others with psychopaths as main characters. Anything, in a way., goes. There's no questioning motivation or Justification of action; the unpredictability is part of the syndrome and don't we read about people like Truitt in the newspaper everyday. As a matter of fact, they usually kill their children. The only difficulty is in making them kin enough for satisfying reader identification.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1965
Publisher: Random House