cover image Pity the Beast

Pity the Beast

Robin McLean. And Other Stories, $25.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-913505-14-1

McLean (Reptile House) returns with a category-defying novel of revenge, survival, and transcendence in modern-day Montana. While Ginny and her husband, Dan, assist a mare with a difficult birth on their ranch, the couple fights bitterly about Ginny’s infidelity with a neighbor, Shaw. Locals arrive to help with the foaling, and as the night wears on, drunken arguments turn violent: Dan rapes Ginny, and nearly all of the men do, as well, urged on by her sister, Ella. Presuming Ginny dead, they toss her inert body into the pit for dead livestock. But Ginny survives and emerges with an avenging fury and strikes back at one of her assailants with a plank spiked with nails. Armed with a stolen horse, weapons, provisions, and memories of her tough Granny, she flees into the mountains, hoping to have the authorities bring the men to justice. Hot in pursuit, though, are Dan, Ella, Ella’s husband, and two other men. The story of the posse alternates with prehistoric myth, natural history, excerpts from an imaginary western, data from 22nd-century extraterrestrial botanists, and the wise “thoughts” of superintelligent, telepathic mules. But, however provocative, these passages don’t manage to integrate with the main narrative. Raw and elemental, searing yet wry, this has much to say on law and lawlessness, sexual politics, and humans’ animal nature. (Nov.)