cover image Salvage This World

Salvage This World

Michael Farris Smith. Little, Brown, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-41363-3

Smith (Nick) melds fire and brimstone with the ravages of hurricanes in this evocative noir of the Mississippi Delta. Jessie raises her young son Jace with Holt, who works as a roustabout for a traveling revival meeting, the Temple of Pain and Glory. The temple’s sinister minister, Elser, goes on a tear after a set of keys goes missing, claiming they were linked to a divine revelation. Elser suspects Holt of the theft, prompting her shotgun-toting disciples to chase Jessie out, and Jessie flees with Jace to her childhood home in Louisiana. There, she reconnects with her estranged but caring father, Wade, an offshore driller who is out of work due to frequent storms. Smith colors in Elser’s backstory, showing how she gave hope to Holt and others amid devastation. Now, Holt risks everything to protect Jessie and Jace, fearing Elser’s followers will kill them. Before it’s all over, the bloody chain of events drags all involved to “the Bottom,” a gothic hinterland of local legend. Smith perfectly depicts a landscape of dwindling resources and limited prospects, where crime turns out to be the most expedient solution. There’s plenty of human drama in this gritty literary thriller. (Apr.)