In this timeless, mythical tale of unforgiving justice and elusive grace, rural Mississippi townsfolk shoulder the pain of generations as something dangerous lurks in the enigmatic kudzu of the woods.
The town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, though those who've held on have little memory of when that was. Myer, the county's aged, sardonic lawman, still thinks it can prove itself -- when confronted by a strange family of drifters, the sheriff believes that the people of Red Bluff can be accepting, rational, even good.
The opposite is true: this is a landscape of fear and ghosts -- of regret and violence -- transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding a terrible secret deeper still.
Colburn, a junkyard sculptor who's returned to Red Bluff, knows this pain all too well, though he too is willing to hope for more when he meets and falls in love with Celia, the local bar owner. The Deep South gives these noble, broken, and driven folks the gift of human connection while bestowing upon them the crippling weight of generations. With broken histories and vagabond hearts, the townsfolk wrestle with the evil in the woods -- and the wickedness that lurks in each and every one of us.
In Smith's haunting, engrossing latest (after The Fighter), strangers awaken an evil force lurking in a small Southern town. In 1976 Red Bluff, Miss., storefronts are empty and boarded up after a long economic downturn. One humid summer, an unnamed man, woman, and boy arrive. While camping in a broken-down Cadillac under cover of creeping kudzu, the man hears whispers in the vines that drive him insane and cause him to kill the woman and cover himself in mud. After twin boys disappear, four lives intersect and secrets begin to emerge from 20 years earlier: Sheriff Myer, a man trying to forget the day he found a young boy staring at the hanged body of his father; Celia, a bar owner struggling with the scribbled psychic premonitions her dead mother left in a trunk; Colburn, a metal sculptor who returned to Red Bluff 20 years after he and Myer found Colburn's father hanging; and the young boy from the Cadillac, on the run from the deranged man he arrived with. As the four enter the dark landscape, their dangerous search for the missing twins driven by a need for redemption, they confront an evil on a scale they'd never imagined. Smith's meditation on the darkness of the human heart offers a moving update to the Southern gothic tradition.