In David Vann’s searing novel Goat Mountain, an 11-year-old boy at his family’s annual deer hunt is eager to make his first kill. His father discovers a poacher on the land, a 640-acre ranch in Northern California, and shows him to the boy through the scope of his rifle. With this simple gesture, tragedy erupts, shattering lives irrevocably.
In prose devastating and beautiful in its precision, David Vann creates a haunting and provocative novel that explores our most primal urges and beliefs, the bonds of blood and religion that define and secure us, and the consequences of our actions—what we owe for what we’ve done.
David Vann is the award-winning author of Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, A Mile Down, and Last Day on Earth.
Vann (Dirt) offers a meditation on violence set during a deer hunt on a Northern California mountain in 1978. The narrator recalls in flashback a few days I want to remember in every smallest detail, when his 11-year-old self, seeking his first buck, just wanted to kill, constantly and without end. But the hunt s first victim proves to be a person, not a deer. The boy sights a poacher through his rifle scope and, purposefully but seemingly without conscious malice, shoots him dead. Through most of the narrative, the narrator, his father, grandfather, and family friend Tom quarrel about what to do with the body, for a time trussing it up like a dead deer. The men s bonds gradually collapse until, in the harrowing climax, the grandfather reaches a decision, with Old Testament finality, about how to evade the consequences of the boy s actions. The adult narrator steps out of flashback periodically to ponder the nature of killing: There was no joy as complete and immediate as killing. This flint-hard novel, in its intensity, will likely be compared to the work of Cormac McCarthy.