THE OUTSKIRTS by Stephen Stark


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You can almost hear drums beating behind the scenes of this rite-of-passage novel about three youths who leave home and camp out in backwoods Virginia. Eighteen-year-old Albie takes to the woods after a fight with his father and is soon joined by his best friend Carl and another boy, Martin, a newcomer to town. It is mysterious Martin who initiates his friends to the thrill of bow-and-arrow hunting. When they kill a deer and cut it up, awash in blood, they know they are far from civilization. And, later, as they meet up with an old drunk and his pet cat, the air seems charged with the memory of all that blood. The mood of thinly-suppressed violence thrums through this novel like a pulse. Finally, when it's all over and Albie has returned home, after a hospital stay, he can't figure out how much of it really happened. Mysterious Martin has disappeared, along with Cad. Who was killed? Who did the killing? It's all as powerful--and as inconclusive--as a dream. This is Stark's first novel, and his prose is so pure it could have been distilled somewhere in the backwoods. There are haunting images here: the razorhead arrows that slice the air; the shriek of the wounded deer. And there are strongly-etched characters, especially brooding Albie, intense in his alienation from the ""civilized"" world of high school. But beneath the steady pulse of this book, it's hard to find its heart. Albie, like his story, is powerful and memorable, but not really likable, He's astringent where he should be passionate. And, sadly, this novel is all rubbing alcohol where it might have been moonshine.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Algonquin