Cormac McCarthy's first novel, published in 1965. Unlike McCarthy's later work, this novel is set in the South. It tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with a bootlegger who has murdered his father. The interesting part is neither of them knows this -- the bootlegger has no idea the guy he killed has any relationship to the kid, and the kid has no idea what happened to his father. They develop a pretty touching relationship. The bootlegger takes the kid hunting, gives him a dog, and generally treats the like a younger brother or surrogate son.

While the book is an interesting view of McCarthy's early style, a lot of readers don't find it as gripping as the novels publised in the 1990s. Even with murder and bootlegging, it lacks some of the intensity you see in, say, Blood Meridian.

I really liked this passage:

"In Saunder's field a shallow marsh, calm and tractable beneath the dimpling rain. And yet rain. What low place did not hold water? At the end of McCall's pond water fell thunderously into the sinkhole that drained it. Along Little River the flats stood knee-deep in livercolored water flecked with thatches of small driftwood and foram that coiled and spun near imperceptably, or rocked with wind-riffles passing under them. By day flocks of rails gathered. A pair of bitterns stalked with gimlet eyes the fertile shallows. At night the tidelands rang with peepers, with frogs gruffly choral. Great scaly gars from the river invaded the flats, fierce and primative of aspect, long beaks full of teth, ancient fishes survived unchanged from mesozoic fens, their yellowed boness skeletons graced the cracked claybeds later in the season where the water left them to what querulous harridans, fishcrow or buzzard, might come to glean their frames, the smelly marvel of small boys."

-Cormac McCarthy, The Orchard Keeper

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