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Monday, March 11, 2013

Cold Quiet Country


When I saw Clayton Lindemuth’s Cold Quiet Country on the new books shelf, I was reminded of a favorite book of mine, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. I don’t know why, just was so I grabbed it. I’m glad I did it is a wonderful debut for Lindemuth. Right from the start in rural Wyoming, we see male predators and female victims at the rawest level.  Lindemuth explores the tough topic of incest and sexual brutality.  Incest is a scourge as we too often read in too any articles. A book and television show, Deadly Silence reported a real story in 1989. The mother’s role is one of the silent reasons this horrible act continues generation after generation, which is one strand Lindemuth is writing about.   “There was no way every soul in that house couldn’t hear them. No way they couldn’t smell what was going on under their noses. But Cal and Jordan (her brothers) didn’t care; Fay (her mother) lacked the courage; and Guinevere suffered.” (page 132). We may suspect Fay was a victim herself and Gwen’s best friend Lizzie, too, is a victim who also gave birth to a child that was given to an orphanage. This certainly is a cold, quiet county in this country indeed run and controlled by the biggest bastard of them al, the sheriff. A hero emerges in Gale G’Wain, an orphan and an outsider, as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of King Arthur’s round table.
This is a tale told in a day, the last day on the job for Sheriff Bittersmith, which happens to be the name of the town, Bittersmith, WY, 1971. The town was named after his grandpappy. There isn’t a redeeming quality about the Sheriff. The more we see him the more we dislike him and wonder how much of his personality fosters the evilness and ugliness of the town, perhaps aptly named Bittersmith. Lindemuth also captures many of the quaint euphemisms of country living and talk: “So skinny he had to stand up twice to make a shadow, and tall enough to hunt geese with a rake.” Or “She was younger than I thought at first, and pretty as a three-eyed potato.” The longer we stay in Bittersmith, no more we realize we need to escape this dead-end town. Passing through ain’t safe.
This is not a simple tale of revenge; it is complex tale of righteousness engulfed in fire and ice and blood. An exhausting and fulfilling debut Mr Lindemuth.