Reap

Eric Rickstad, Author
Eric Rickstad, Author Viking Books $23.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-670-88517-6
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-14-029837-6
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By turns bucolic and eerie, this engaging backwoods bildungsroman set in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom probes the mysteries of growing, as plants, people and situations twist inexorably in unpredictable, dangerous directions. Fanciful 16-year-old loner Jessup Burke dreams of earning the money to fix his broken-down car so he can drive to visit his true love, Emily, who's just moved to Massachusetts with her family. Twenty-nine-year-old ex-con Reg Cumber talks of racing on the NASCAR circuit, and through a bountiful marijuana crop, only part of which belongs to him, he thinks he may have a way to get closer to his dream--and settle some old scores in the bargain. Reg's younger sister, Marigold, is stuck in a dysfunctional marriage; her logger husband had an emasculating chainsaw accident and is suffering from psychic wounds more devastating than his physical injuries. Unseasoned Jessup soon finds himself willingly entangled in the Cumbers' world. In return for money and a promise to fix his car, Jessup goes to work for Reg, helping him bring in the harvest, and Reg teaches him to drive a stick-shift, drink beer, smoke pot and cigarettes. Both of them grew up fatherless, and this commonality bonds the two new friends even closer. Through Reg, Jessup discovers that what he has been told of his own father's death is a shameful lie. Marigold is immediately drawn to Jessup, and she becomes the source of an even greater discovery for him. But her husband is growing dangerous, and so is Reg's scheming. In this promising first novel, Rickstad mirrors the secrets and convolutions of his characters' lives in the snarled landscape and lush, clandestine pot farms. The likable Jessup holds the reader's sympathy and concern throughout the progressively more harrowing, absorbing tale. Author tour. (Feb.)
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