Friday Book Review by Geoffrey Norman:
Blackway, the villain in “Go With Me,” Castle Freeman Jr.’s short novel, is a creature of the cut-over, used-up back-country of Vermont, where people once logged timber and now clip coupons. He is the product of a culture of easy violence, a man to be feared.
When he stalks a young woman and kills her cat, she logically asks for help from the local sheriff. And the sheriff logically sends her to see the boys down at the mill. It used to make furniture, but now “they made a better Windsor chair in North Carolina, in Taiwan, than they did in Vermont.” The boys at the mill don’t run lathes anymore; they drink beer and talk. When Lillian shows up asking for help, they team her up with Lester and Nate. The three set off on a quest to find Blackway and deal with him.
There is a clear moral arc to this storyline, and suspense too. But “Go With Me” is also a literary novel, with echoes of “Deliverance” and Cormac McCarthy. The primitive at the heart of the book is a staple of American fiction. He can be noble like Natty Bumppo or downright evil, like Faulkner’s Popeye. His symbolic function was summed up by D.H. Lawrence:” The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted.“