Empty Mile

Matthew Stokoe, Akashic, $16.95 paper (364p) ISBN 978-1-936070-12-1
From the outset of this heartbreakingly powerful contemporary noir, Stokoe (High Life) gets the reader deeply emotionally invested in his guilt-ridden narrator, Johnny Richardson. Eight years after leaving his hometown of Oakridge, Calif., in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Johnny returns to face the consequences of a reckless youthful act. Instead of keeping an eye on his then 11-year-old brother, Stan, during an outing to a local lake, Johnny slipped off with his girlfriend, Marla, into the surrounding woods. Left alone, Stan, a smart kid but a poor swimmer, suffered brain damage after nearly drowning in the lake. In the present, Johnny and Marla reconnect, but a suicide prompted by sexual betrayal leads to more deaths. When Stan and Johnny's widowed father disappears, Johnny must look after his brother on his own. Stokoe stays true to a bleak vision of the world as he enmeshes his characters in the kinds of tragic setups reminiscent of a Thomas Hardy novel. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/10/2010
Release date: 07/01/2010
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