Kind One

Laird Hunt's writing consistently consigns existential dread into the service of narratives that read the way blindfolded roller-coaster rides might feel. Memory, in this metaphor, would be the tracks of the coaster; its fallibility, its power over us, weaves in and out of all of Hunt's novels. Kind One takes the ride into Southern gothic territory--1800s Kentucky, to be precise--and the "gothic" here finds romance and horror occupying the same space.

A teenage girl agrees to marry her mother's second cousin, a man named Linus Lancaster, who charms her with promises of prosperity that fall far short. To call Lancaster "troubled" would be charitable; his transgressions against his wife and against two young slave girls expose the raw tensions that come from combining poverty, racism and emotional suppression. The death of one of these players changes the dynamic, as one would expect, but in ways that tunnel beneath the expectations of the reader. When the story comes out on the other side, the emotions held in check for so long rip a chasm clear through the American South. Unlike many novels concerned with this place and time, Kind One never feels shoehorned into a good ol' boy yokelspeak. Hunt has an ear for dialect, and the story itself reads like Faulkner mixed with Raymond Carver, while remaining recognizably Hunt's own. The reckonings that Hunt's characters face, as they do in so many of his novels, will reverberate in the reader's memory long after Kind One is finished. --Matthew Tiffany, counselor, writer for Condalmo

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