COUNTRY DYING by Robert C. S. Downs


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You can't really be disappointed by this modest little story about the destruction of a small New Hampshire town because, after a semi-promising beginning, it soon caves in under the weight of its own implausibilities. We are at first introduced, one by one, to Oldenfield's core characters--the town clerk, the owner of the general store, her hophead son, the postmaster, the town selectman and owner of the garage, and the Baptist minister who, for almost 20 years, has been longing to be transferred to a more prosperous town. Oldenfield, founded in the 1760's, now has a population of 87 and continues to decline. The state highway department can't wait, however, and decrees its obliteration to make way for the new Interstate. Compensation will be provided to the remaining citizens, announces the chief executioner, Sorenson, a near psychopath who likes his work for the Department of Highways too much. So much for the semi-promising beginning. The story from here collapses into a personal duel between Sorenson and the Oldenfield cadre--no thoughts of legal action ever enter the picture. In a penultimate disastrous episode the cadre attempts to transport the town's important buildings across a frozen lake to a ""new-town"" where ""victory"" of sorts is achieved. But it would be best if you decided, along with the more prudent citizens, to split the scene a whole lot earlier.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1976
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill