cover image Before Familiar Woods

Before Familiar Woods

Ian Pisarcik. Crooked Lane, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64385-295-9

Pisarcik’s outstanding debut begins in the aftermath of a tragedy. Three years after teenagers Mathew Fenn and William Downing died in a burst of violence triggered by heroin and fentanyl, Matthew’s mother, Ruth, remains shunned by the townsfolk of North Falls, Vt. Though everyone in the dying town at least ignores the flood of illegal drugs, Ruth is slowly coming to terms with the fact that she does deserve personal blame; she should have done more to protect her son. Meanwhile, she meets Milk Raymond, an alienated Afghan War vet who’s trying to figure out how to be a father to his son, Daniel, who has been traumatized by his mother’s addiction. Then Ruth’s husband vanishes, along with William’s father. And so Ruth is forced into an awkward, tentative, altogether convincing investigation. Familiar landscapes become quietly ominous as the characters set about doing what they have to do. The action builds toward a devastating yet mildly hopeful conclusion. Pisarcik is a writer to watch. Agent: Alec Shane, Writers House. (Mar.)