The Kept-James Scott
Strangers have shot a family to death while the mother is away. The surviving child shoots her when she returns (thinking she’s the shooters come back to finish the job). Revenge and the revealing of secrets kept drive the rest of the novel
What a bleak novel. The opening scene is on a massacre and it is bleak. The landscape is bleak. The characters and their ability to develop is bleak. The ending is bleak.
And that is its strength as a novel. That doesn’t make it easy to read but you do have to be impressed by how much bleakness can be packed into 350 pages without driving a reader to drink. I don’t quite know how Scott managed it-perhaps it was the sparse, precise prose or perhaps it was the pacing-but this was not the most depressing thing I’ve read...though admittedly, it’s up there. There’s a lot of the elements of a traditional Western here-the horror of being in the middle of nowhere, transgressive characters, carving a space for your own, revenge, etc,-but set against the northern winter. So you have the typical gruesome details of the genre within a landscape as brutal as the desert and the usual lack of proper parenting which leads to a showdown kind of scene. I felt like I was reading a wintry Cormac McCarthy actually. Goodness, this novel was brutal but starkly beautiful albeit not for the soft-hearted.