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Goat Mountain by David Vann

Goat MountainSince I read Legend of Suicide two years ago, I haven’t read another book of David Vann. David Vann has been rather prolific since 2011, churning out one novel every year.

I am not sure how much I should tell you about the book but if you are planning on reading it, I suggest you don’t read my review.

In David Vann’s searing novel Goat Mountain, an eleven-year-old boy is eager to make his first kill at his family’s annual deer hunt. He is out hunting with his grandfather, father and his father’s friend Tom. Interestingly, only Tom has a name, the rest don’t.

But all is not as it should be. The boy’s 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.

The story is told in the eyes of the eleven-year-old. What happens after that was more about what goes on in every family member’s head than what they physically do or done. Each of them trying to come to terms with the terrible crime and its repercussions. Is the murderer a monster or was it just a pure mistake?

Vann definitely know his milieu well and bring the reader along the setting of the story:

The creek low, no more than a foot of water, but fairly wide, at least ten yards. The stones a brightness of color under the water, blues and deep liver red, a break from the yellow grass, brown dirt and bark, green needles, pale blue sky, Richer colors. Glint of fool’s gold along the shallow edges, in the sand.

I find it quite an interesting and disturbing novel to read because I questioned the motive of the book. Does this book serves as a warning to the hazard of adults and children playing with guns? or does it glorifies killing? Is it saying that it is human’s primal urges to kill or should civilisation changes the way we survive and “hunt” for our food now therefore reduce the need to kill with our own bare hands? Should we kill now for the better good of the latter?

I must admit Vann writes brilliantly:

It’s rare the world is ever truly new. Rare, also, that we find ourselves at the centre. But all had realigned at that moment. When we kill, all that is orients itself to us.

When I search my memories, it seems it was always like way, that every moment spent with my father or grandfather or Tom was a moment alone. And so it’s hard to know why they even matter. But they were the closest people to me in my life. 

I’ve tried to remember what I saw that day, tried to remember many times, but memory insists on causation and meaning, on a story. Each thing that is leads to the next thing, and there’s a reason for that. What I want to recover, though, is that moment in which there was no good or bad but only gravity, and there was no causation but only each moment, separate and whole. Because that was the truth.

I remember the weight of the need I felt, because I was still a child, only eleven years old. I think a child will have nothing less than ingesting a parent, swallowing them whole from the world, and anything other is a disappointment.

David Vann in this book as in Legend of Suicide explores the bond and dysfunctional relationship of father and son, with similar theme of guns and the misuse of it. Readers who are used to crime fiction may be blasé about the graphic nature of some scenes. I didn’t find it graphic, I find some of the justification for killing offputting but I suppose this is what the novel aims to do, out to disturb and shock you.

The only positive thing I can say about the book is that Vann’s writing is thoughtful and profound. I may read many passages, stop and ponder upon its deeper implication. That is Vann’s strength and one of the reasons his books are popular (besides the shocking elements of it). David Vann is the only writer I know who can write about the macabre so poetically. It is testosterone charged, very dark, bleak and unsettling….. I am not sure if I like it but I certainly didn’t hate the book.

I think this book makes a good book club read but you must have a strong stomach. Dark, disturbing, gun-trigger happy and unbearably tense, this is the sort of novel you wouldn’t want to give your father (or grandfather!) as a father’s day present. Read with trepidation..

Rating: three and a half stars

I thank the publisher Random House for giving me this review copy, in exchange of an honest opinion. The book will be published on the 3th of October 2013 in the UK.

Another great review at Universe in Words.

I was first introduced David Vann in Legend of Suicide. Since then he has added many accolades and his books have stayed in many bestseller’s lists around the world. The longest list I have ever seen, do check the Wikipedia.

Kindle copy. Publisher: William Heinemann 2013; Length: 256 pages; Setting: North Carolina, USA. Source: Review copy from Netgalley. Finished reading on: 24th August 2013.

About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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