Transforming a kidnapping plot into an epic rural fable and then a touchingly poignant love story, Harington crafts a wildly imaginative tour de force about a young Arkansas girl who survives a harrowing abduction and undergoes a remarkable series of epiphanies. Robin Kerr is the prepubescent protagonist who is snatched from her single mother by Sog Alan, a former state trooper who takes her to his ramshackle house on the remote pinnacle of Mt. Madewell just outside Harington's beloved mythical village of Stay More. Her kidnapper's illness and impotence keep Robin from being ravaged, and she capitalizes on Sog Alan's twisted love for her to carve out a bizarre existence with her abductor, aided by Sog's dog, Hreapha, who is given a singular voice of her own. Sog Alan's failing health eventually weakens him, and Robin is able to shoot him during a final rape attempt. Her efforts to escape the mountain prove futile, though, and she slowly adapts to a hardscrabble backwoods existence, aided by a growing menagerie of pets that eventually includes a bobcat and a bear cub. Robin also receives advice from the spirit of 12-year-old Adam Madewell, the son of a cooper whose family owned the land before moving to California. Wary of civilization, Robin chooses to stay on the mountain even when she has the opportunity to leave, and her pristine rural existence remains uninterrupted until love comes in the form of the middle-aged Adam Madewell, who returns to Arkansas after a successful but unfulfilling stint as a California cooper and winemaker. Harington's taut storytelling lends edgy suspense to the kidnapping story, and the combination of wise, comic animal voices and Adam's disembodied incarnation adds life to the pastoral narrative. Harington has invented a unique post-Faulknerian piece of fictional terrain in his Stay More novels, and this powerful effort should further enhance his reputation as one of the great undiscovered novelists of our time. (Apr.)
Forecast: Harington has yet to catch on with a wider readership, and this long, rather daunting novel is unlikely to break him out, despite its merits. Still, With does provide critics with an excellent opportunity to survey Harington's Stay More novels, and a few enthusiastic reviews could make all the difference.
Release date: 04/01/2004