The Line That Held Us

Mysterious Book Review No. 357

by John Dwaine McKenna

The MBR is kicking off the New Year with an elegant—and stunning—tale of Appalachian noir that combines elements of kinship and friendship, absolute love and total retribution, death, revenge and redemption.  It is a novel you’ll find yourself thinking about long after finishing the last chapter and reaching the astonishing conclusion, because it leaves several haunting questions in the reader’s mind.  Questions such as, What would you do? and How far would you go to help a friend? or What is unconditional love?

The Line That Held Us, (Putnam/Penguin, $27.00, 256 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57422-1), by David Joy, opens in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee—the exact location isn’t defined—and begins when a scofflaw poaching deer accidentally shoots and kills a man who’s stealing ginseng.  Darl Moody is the hunter’s name . . . and he’s in a panic, because the dead guy is Carol Brewer aka “Sissy,” whose brother Dwayne is notorious for violence and renowned for vengeance.  Dwayne’s a man who instills fear in everyone he meets, who never forgets a slight, and who has an abiding love for his younger, special needs brother . . . the last of their clan.

Instead of alerting the authorities and confessing, Darl calls Calvin Hooper, and Calvin, against his better judgment and in spite of his moral misgivings, steps in to help his lifelong best friend hide the crime.

That act of devotion, which comes out of friendship, sets off a bloody chain of events from which no one, Darl, Calvin . . . or his girlfriend Angie . . . not even Dwayne Brewer, himself will emerge unscathed.

The setting is beautiful, the premise haunting, the language magical, and the novel unforgettable.  Read it for yourself and get to know the awesome talent of this up-and-coming southern wordsmith with all the tools to write the next great American novel!


John Dwaine McKenna