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a powerful read
Goat Mountain is the third novel by American author, David Vann. In the early fall of 1978, an eleven-year-old boy is on an annual deer hunting trip on a Californian mountainside with his father, his father’s best friend and his grandfather. This year, he expects to bag his first buck, but instead, in a life-changing moment, he shoots dead a poacher. The shocking series of events that follows this moment are told with matter-of-fact candour, revealing a flawed set of values, a moral void. Vann draws on his own family’s history of violence and his Cherokee ancestry to weave this compelling tale. The stirring, highly evocative, sometimes even lyrical prose is a counterpoint to the darkness and savagery of the subject matter. Gorgeous fragments like “Feel of the air, thinner in the cool sections, fattening up in the light” and “Cicadas turning the air into clicks and a pulse” and “The light not a light of this world but more a temperature, a coldness through which we could see” give the reader a feast of images, sounds and feelings. The boy’s inner monologue, filled with biblical references and uncensored thoughts, is often blackly comic. Vann’s thought-provoking and complex story will have the reader reflecting on a number of subjects: the sanctity of human life; the responsibility for a child’s actions; hunting and killing; conscience, goodness and moral fibre. This is a powerful read.