Excerpt from The Black Snow by Paul Lynch, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Black Snow

by Paul Lynch

The Black Snow by Paul Lynch X
The Black Snow by Paul Lynch
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  • Published:
    May 2015, 272 pages

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James Broderick
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Excerpt
Black Snow

Barnabas bent and grabbed a rock shaped like the tooth of some old animal that had fallen there to die under the wheel of an ancient sun, and perhaps that may have been, but as he tossed it lazy towards the ditch Matthew Peoples took a step forward and cleared his throat again. Jesus Christ, boys. They took no notice of him or perhaps they didn't hear, for later in their memories what each of them heard was the dull sound of Matthew Peoples' boots thudding up the field. Not a word from the man and something comic about the way he moved with his limbs all thickly, like he was set to stumble and hit the ground at the knees, fall without his hands into the dirt face-forward, break apart into his constituent elements. But they'd never seen him move quicker, his hands balled like stones and the whites of ankles winking at them through the rise and fall of his slacks. And if Matthew Peoples had known what he was running towards he might have stopped right there, turned instead for the road gated at the far side of the field. Barnabas wondering what was up with the man when he heard him bellow belatedly, a single word that came backwards over the man like a lobbed stone. Had to hear it twice in his mind till his eyes travelled to a place above the trees where he saw the swirl blackly, a shimmy of smoke that seemed to do a bow just for him.

Fire.

A skim of starlings in the sky above Carnarvan seemed to mirror the rising wreath of drift smoke. The murmuration swung in unison like minds entwined, weaved the sky with giant breathing until the dusk pulsed like a lung. The group inverted and swirled, caught the light and bent it, swung again into a strip of infinite looping, nature's way of mocking perhaps what was playing out below, or more likely the birds were oblivious, locked into their own state of being. The boy saw the display above the townland but did not register it in his mind, watched instead his father run blind up the field, looked towards the darkening trees. Like a visitant, something passed through him cold.

Barnabas's mind staring over an abyss he could not see. He followed Matthew up the field, a drunkenness in his legs as if apprehension had become a fluid thing administered into his blood, and then he managed himself into a run.

Not the house, please be. Oh, Eskra.

The narrow field and the stretch of it endlessly and then he saw Matthew Peoples disappear into the trees. He followed, trees of oak and sycamore and a wizened beech that remained with fingers pointed to the sky as if trying to beseech some urgent claim upon life. The path worn through. He met relief in the shape of Eskra running towards them, her skirt hitched, her elbows flaring, flour on her hands. Never more fully alive in the way he saw her, her two cheeks burning. He saw Matthew Peoples stalling for a moment to listen to her, the man bent on his knees to catch his breath, and then he was off at a run. Barnabas caught up and stopped for her and she took his wrist in her floured hand white as if the blood had drained out of it. Sweat filming her high forehead and her breath jagging at the air like a knife, jagging at his eyes. She tightened her grip, tried to catch her breath. What he saw in her eyes near defeated him before she spoke, and when she did so, a sheaf of hair fell loose across her face.

The byre's burning, she said.

She swiped quick at her hair and put upon her cheek a line of flour as if she had been marked.

Go shout for the boy, he said.

An imprint of her face upon his mind as he ran. His world narrowing down into a different kind of seeing.


The byre stood right-angled to the house, a building made of stone that was upon the land when he bought it. In length it was some fifty feet with pens for cattle now housed for the winter. Fodder in the loft under old oak beams. The byre had red double doors at the front that were not built wide enough for big cattle to walk through shoulder to shoulder, made it slow-going to move them in and out. His mind went over what he expected would meet him. Why now to fuck in February when they weren't yet in the fields? Another few months and they would be passed it. He could hear Cyclop panting behind him, strained his eyes beyond the trees but could see nothing but what was before him, tree shadow serpentine on the track as if he had stepped into an unreality that annulled all time and rewrote all laws indifferently.

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Excerpted from The Black Snow by Thomas Lynch. Copyright © 2015 by Thomas Lynch. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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