Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE COOTER FARM by Matthew F. Jones


by Matthew F. Jones

Pub Date: Jan. 29th, 1992
ISBN: 1-56282-991-2

 Incest, infidelity, and artificial insemination play major roles in this backwoods melodrama set in upstate New York--a first novel in the rural gothic tradition by a writer with a weird sense of humor. The trouble with the Cooter family farm lies less in its hilly Devon County location, where the soil has ``the consistency of chicken and dumplings,'' than with the eldest son and acting patriarch, Hooter Cooter--so called in honor of his peculiar laugh- -who rules the roost with utter ruthlessness and fury. The servile objects of Hooter's contempt include Mother Cooter, who adores him; Looter Cooter, Hooter's thieving younger brother; and Mary Jean, a pubescent sister with whom Hooter is carrying on an incestuous affair. Middle brother Scooter has ducked out in favor of a job with Century Semen, Inc., selling bull semen to farmers across the state. This act of betrayal irks Hooter no end, and he retaliates by ridiculing Scooter in front of the family, threatening Scooter's townie wife, Nora Anne, and scaring the daylights out of their kids--Craig, an overweight genius, and Ollie, the half-forgotten younger brother who narrates this tale. Soon, Scooter runs away, and in his father's absence Ollie is forced to confront the family's appalling demons on his own. While Ollie's mother commences an affair with the school psychologist, Hooter climbs into bed with a member of the church choir; Craig fires off scathing letters of protest to the local newspaper; and Ollie and Mary Jean hold voodoo sessions in a deserted farmhouse in an attempt to will Hooter's death. Tampering with the forces of darkness results in more destruction than Ollie bargained for, however--leaving the Cooter family in a shambles and a shell- shocked Ollie stumbling, more bewildered than ever, toward adolescence. Hooter, Scooter, and Looter will remind some readers of Carolyn Chute's The Beans of Egypt, Main--though this backwoods family is of a decidedly darker variety.