Picks and Pans Review: Walk Me to the Distance

updated 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Percival L. Everett

Everett is a fine storyteller whose first novel, Suder, was a tragicomedy about a baseball player on the skids. This second book is deeper and more serious. The central character is David Larson, a returned Vietnam vet seeking a place where he can feel at home. He ends up in Slut's Hole, Wyo., so named "because everybody comes here and then they leave." There he rents a room from an old one-legged ranch widow named Sixbury, and they become friends. David gets a job tending the rest area on a nearby highway and decides to stay. Sixbury's retarded son runs away. David finds himself responsible for an abandoned Vietnamese girl, who then also vanishes. Everett's story has violence and pathos, but it is really his terse writing that makes this novel potent. The silences between his taciturn Western characters, like the time bending in good jazz, are loaded with meaning. His characters, alternately pitiful and admirable, are both convincing and memorable. After David watches Sixbury buy a deformed, helpless buck sheep at an auction just to put it out of its misery, Everett writes: "He was impressed by this old woman, comfortable with her. She was hard and honest, solid." This novel is like a winter in Slut's Hole: unsettling, harsh and ultimately unforgettable. (Ticknor & Fields, $14.95)

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