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Country Dark by Chris Offutt

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Yes, this is only the second novel in Chris Offutt’s illustrious literary career which has included two story collections, two autobiographical works, and a biography of his father as well as distinguished writing for television, magazines, and the theatre.  Offutt grew up in Haldeman, Kentucky, a small town in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. The setting for this novel is rural Eastern Kentucky from the Korean War until 1970. The protagonist, Tucker, returns home from the war and goes to work for the local bootlegger, falls in love, marries, and starts a family. When his family is threatened, he reacts with the kind of violence that has surrounded him all his life. “Offutt impressively inhabits this impoverished, fiercely private world without condescension or romance, fashioning a lean, atmospheric story that moves fluidly between the extremes of violence and love . . . Offutt is such a measured and unexcitable stylist that the story never wallows in the grotesque . . . [A] fine homage to a pocket of the country that’s as beautiful as it is prone to tragedy.”―Wall Street Journal. “If Tucker is a man of few words neither are there wasted words in Chris Offutt’s bang-bang second novel, Country Dark . . . [Offutt is] a refined, versatile writer, sometimes impish, always ecumenical, never snobbish . . . He scatters little halos of earthy metaphor … locates dark prophecy in shades of detail . . . [and] has a great ear for humorous rural chatter.”―Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Country Dark is grim and funny and touching. It’s a crime story, a novel of backwoods manners, and a family saga. It’s many things at once, all of them great. Masterful descriptions of the natural world bump up against scenes of shocking violence, and you’re left in awe, wondering how the hell Chris Offutt managed to pull this book off.” ―Richard Lange.

New York: Grove Press, a 2019 paperback edition of a 2018 release. 231 pages. Trade paperback.