Excerpt from Goat Mountain by David Vann, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Goat Mountain

by David Vann

Goat Mountain by David Vann
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 256 pages
    Oct 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Once they carry it out of here, no one knows where it came from, my father said.


Well let's take a closer look, my father said, and he walked back to the cab. I didn't know what he meant, but he came out with his .300 magnum. He stood and brought the rifle to his shoulder, aimed up at the poacher. A large black scope. It was a beautiful rifle, oiled dark wood. A rifle for shooting bears, too big to use on deer, but it was what my father used anyway, some part in him willing destruction. I had seen that rifle take nearly the entire shoulder off a deer as the bullet came out the other side.

He's a pretty one, my father said. Enjoying a sunny day looking out over all our land and our bucks.

King of the world up there, my grandfather said.

Roll the truck closer, my father said.

So Tom went and released the emergency brake, easing forward to where we'd been standing.

My father aimed again, but this time his elbows were on the hood for balance. He pulled back the bolt and then drove it home, a shell in the chamber. Let's see if he can hear that. I want him to take a look over here and see what's aiming at him.

But the poacher had not moved or looked in this direction, as far as I could tell. He was far away, probably more than two hundred yards, so I couldn't make out his face exactly, but it seemed he was looking down the slope farther ahead.

Tom had his rifle out now, too, aiming up at the poacher through his scope. But I had only a peep sight on my .30-.30.

Come take a look, my father said, as if reading my mind.

So I held the rifle, braced my elbows on the hood of the truck. Smell of gun oil in close, like my .30-.30, but otherwise not the same at all. Heavier and perfect, smooth wood and dark blue metal fused together as if all had been born of one piece, and the balance when I put the stock to my shoulder was perfect too, a thing meant to be and easily become a part of me.

The scope an illumination that seemed without source, a view directly into the world, my own better eye. Texture of rock at over two hundred yards, more than two football fields away. Dark rock with grains and bumps and ridges from weather, a wide slab, and I followed it to the left, to where the poacher sat at the edge, his boots dangling, a rifle lying across his thighs. Jeans and a white T-shirt in the sun, the orange hunting vest. Orange baseball cap. Wanting to be seen. Out here in the open, on our land. He had long sideburns, light brown. His face and neck pink from the sun.

I traced an arm with the center of the crosshairs, moving up from elbow to shoulder. The poacher seemed to sense this, the most uncanny thing. He turned to his left and looked directly at me, into the scope, and he scooted his legs around until he was facing forward. He had seen us, seen something. Some color from the hood of the truck or a reflection on a rifle scope. His hands lifting his binoculars from around his neck and looking straight at me with great dark eyes.

My hand tightened on the stock, and I held my breath. The crosshairs floating just between those lenses. Locked in time with this man, locked in this moment held still.

A slow exhale, careful, as I'd been taught, and I tightened slowly on the trigger. There was no thought. I'm sure of that. There was only my own nature, who I am, beyond understanding.

The world itself detonated from some core and I was flung through the air, landing in the dirt. The aftersound in my ears and pumping of blood. My heart jackhammering. The rifle beside me in the dirt, my right hand still on the grip.

My father lifted me by my shirtfront and threw me backward and I did not hit ground where ground was supposed to be. I'd been lofted past the edge of the road and the earth fell away and I kept falling, hit from behind by a tree trunk or branch and another and another, still falling through air, twisting, and a rush of shadow from the right was all I saw before my right shoulder hit hard in dirt and leaves and I cartwheeled and slammed a trunk with my left leg and was spun around to hit ground with my head and neck and then upright, seeing straight ahead as if I were running down this slope, and I threw my arms out from instinct and flinched sideways to catch the next trunk on a shoulder and was flung beyond bearing until I skittered through leaves and finally lay still, not knowing how I was possible or what would be.

Excerpted from Goat Mountain by David Vann. Copyright © 2013 by David Vann. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Dirty Realism

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Goodbye Days
    Goodbye Days
    by Jeff Zentner
    Guilt can be a heavy burden for anyone to manage, but it's especially difficult for teenagers. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading, you wish the author that wrote it was a ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -