A double tragedy opens primordial wounds in an isolated Minnesota community.
Everyone always thought that Grizz Fallon’s boy, Seth, was no good. At 16, he’d already done drugs and gotten into trouble with the law. But no one ever imagined that he’d get up one Saturday morning, methodically saw the barrel off the 12-gauge shotgun Grizz had given him for Christmas, hide it under an unseasonably heavy coat, ring the doorbell of his pregnant English teacher, Clara Warren, who doesn’t answer the door since she’s sneaking a cigarette in the basement, and then, when Sheriff Will Gunderson spots him strolling through the center of Lone Mountain in that coat and pulls over his cruiser to talk to him, pull out the shotgun and unload into the sheriff’s face. The story, which might seem to end just a few minutes later when Seth shoots himself in a nearby cornfield, continues in two directions. Going forward, an argument about whether Seth will be banished to the corner of the graveyard reserved for suicides leads Grizz to steal his corpse and bury it himself, and the locals are troubled by sightings of the coyote pups Seth had been raising after his father shot mama coyote. Going backward, Clara, who’s persuaded her husband, Logan, a Lutheran minister, to accept his first pulpit in this unappealing little town so that she can find out more about the mother her own father would never talk about, links Sylvia Meyers’ death to a chain of dark secrets that join saints and sinners, man and beast.
Maltman (The Night Birds, 2008) makes his leading characters so sensitive that you may shudder at the same revelations that so appall them.