July 14, 1997 12:00 PM

by Chris Offutt

In Offutt’s powerful first novel, the sound of regional voices—flat and spare in the Rockies, baroque in the Appalachians—makes the idea of community as real to readers as it does to Virgil Caudill. A mild, modest man, Virgil has lived his 32 years within the hollows of a dying Kentucky coal town. But when his brother is murdered, Virgil must exact vengeance—and get out—or be killed in turn. Offutt’s measured prose makes Virgil’s moving story vivid. On grieving for his brother: “Sometimes deep inside was the instinct to shut it off, not so much like turning a faucet but more like doubling a hose to choke his sorrow.” This too rings true. (Simon & Schuster, $23)

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