Cover Image: The Line That Held Us

The Line That Held Us

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Member Reviews

Note, this interview will appear online and in print in Mountain Times (Boone, NC) on Aug. 14, 2018:

Concerned, as always, with what he calls “big ideas,” Appalachia’s David Joy is so gifted a writer that he never lets those ideas get in the way of the story — and so it is with “The Line That Held Us” (Putnam), Joy’s third, most ambitious and best novel to date.

Praise has been heaped high on Joy’s particular brand of Southern noir, and rightly so. The author has been compared to the likes of Ron Rash, Cormac McCarthy and Wiley Cash, and Joy etches ever closer to a place above these and others with this novel. That the author gets his truck just a bit mired in the mud of social observation is perhaps the only miscue, or perhaps is by design. Joy's work is that textured, and through three novels it has been his penchant to ensure that those observations are underpinned by stories moving at full throttle, slinging that mud and forcing us to continuously wipe the windshield.

“The Line That Held Us” is such a story. Testing the bonds of friendship, Darl Moody calls upon Calvin Hooper to help him recover from the unrecoverable: While hunting out of season, Moody accidentally kills Dwayne Brewer’s simple brother, setting off a chain of revenge as horrific as it is undeniably real.

In this novel, Joy packages Rash’s eye and ear for setting and character, Cash’s sense of story and McCarthy’s gift for language. Recently, Mountain Times spoke with Joy from his Jackson County, Tenn., home about those authors, life in Appalachia and where the lines are drawn when it comes to family and friendship. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Mountain Times: You’ve been critiqued as one of the most authentic writers documenting Appalachia today, and this is your third novel set in Jackson County, Tenn. In terms of setting, how does that authenticity translate into your novels?

David Joy: The authenticity comes from the fact that I know this place and that I’ve never shied away from that. I’ve been here most of my life at this point, and I just don’t know anyplace else as intimately as I know Jackson County. A lot of writers sometimes have to imagine a setting, imagine a place and they have to make it up and it becomes this culmination of a whole lot of places, but for me, I never did that. I never really wanted to do that. When I see a character, when I see a story, I see them very specifically where I am. Oftentimes to the point of a tree in a novel like (the author's second work) “The Weight of This World.” There are moments in that book where the characters are at a tree that exists and I could take you and show you where they were. … That’s been something that’s carried through all of my novels, that really strong sense of place. I don’t really ever see that changing. I have no plans of ever leaving here.

MT: How about the same question in terms of character?

DJ: There’s a couple of things happening in terms of characters. This new novel is very different in a lot of ways from anything else I’ve done in the sense that I wanted to write a book about everyday people who find themselves in some type of incredible circumstance. Darl Moody and Calvin Hooper are everyday types of people. With all the other novels I was writing very heavily about criminality and addiction, and that’s because that’s what I know well.

I found out two days ago that one of my childhood friends died of an overdose. That makes three friends I’ve lost to heroin overdoses. I’ve lost either eight or nine friends to suicide. I grew up in a place and around people where addiction was very prevalent. That’s the reality I portray.

One thing I’m always very careful about, though, is that I don’t think that’s indicative of Appalachia as a whole. I don’t think addiction is necessarily more prevalent here than in other places. Often times, addiction is more attached to poverty than it is to region or landscape.

With my novels, I was writing about that because that’s what I know. I know that world. I know those details. I was always very interested in getting to the humanity of that. … Throughout my work I tend to focus on things that are very disturbing, often times violent and I tend to try to find some type of beauty of that. I don’t necessarily know what that says about me. But if you look at my novels, look at my essays, that’s definitely a thread that carries through all of it.

MT: Another thread through your work is the almost fraternal bond between male characters, such as between Calvin and Darl. Bonds similar to those found in this novel, in “The Weight of This World” and “Where All Light Tends to Go,” drive much of the action. Those bonds also ask the question about how far one friend would really go for another. Are you testing the limits of friendship in this and other works?

DJ: Definitely. And I don’t think that that’s crazy, that situation (in "The Line That Held Us"). There’s a moment in there where Calvin is looking back and he’s thinking about all the times when they’d been sitting around, drinking, and one of the friends might have said to the other, “I’d kill somebody for you.” I’ve said that to people that I love. When we say those things we mean them at the time, but you don’t know until the moment arises what you’d do. That’s a question I had with this novel: What do you do if your best friend calls you and you arrive over there and he’s asking you to help cover up a murder or an accidental killing? I was definitely interested in trying to push that just as far as I could, just the same as I’m interested in pushing Dwayne’s story as far as it would go. How far was Dwayne willing to go to hold on to what was left of his brother?

MT: Beyond those fraternal bonds, let’s look at the women in your stories. Although they typically don’t get as much face time as the male characters, the female characters are more intricately drawn, have more depth and in many ways are stronger than the men — especially since much of the harshness in their lives is male-driven. In this novel, Angie, Calvin's girlfriend, is an especially deep, resilient and resourceful character. Talk to me a little about her, and your female characters in general.

DJ: That’s one thing that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Part of it is knowing the danger that you get in if you don’t — especially as a male writer, especially as a white male writer. It doesn’t get any more privileged than that. I spend a lot of time really trying to capture that. Angie and the females are truly the strongest characters in each of my novels, and they are also the only ones who seem to have any sort of mobility, who seem to be able to find a way to get out of a particular circumstance. Even thinking about Darl’s mom: There’s a line in the novel that even as tough as the men were, the women had always been stone. That’s very truthful, particularly of Appalachian women, of rural women. The glue that’s always held all of that together, especially in the South, has always been women.

MT: I’m confused, and I expect purposely so for your part, about your main villain, Dwayne. Talk about a study in contradictions: He’s been shaped by the extreme harshness of a mountain life, but it’s clear from the Bible and other lessons he learned from his grandfather that he had a choice in directions and chose the wrong path. Yet it’s also Dwayne who comes out with the almost tender lecture about the line that holds us — those bonds of love.

DJ: When I look back at what most interested me as a writer about this novel, this is Dwayne’s story as much as it is everything else. I was interested in building a character like Lester Ballard in (Cormac) McCarthy’s “Child of God” or William Gay’s “The Paperhanger” or Flannery O’Connor’s “The Misfit.” I was very interested in trying to create a character who was memorable in that way.

One of the things that’s scariest about a bad guy is when he makes sense. There are a lot of moments when Dwayne makes perfect sense. When he’s up there with Calvin on the land that's been clear cut, he sees that as the destruction equally violent and equally horrific as murder. That’s something that I feel.

One of the other things I was playing with is the absolute danger of religion and how it can be used to justify anything — especially if you focus just Old Testament. That’s one of the most violent books I’ve ever read. Dwayne, in a lot of ways, focused in on that. When you think of that kind of vengeful, violent God, that’s something that kept Dwayne Brewer up at night.

And, I still can’t shake his voice. He had a very specific way of talking, the dialogue was very different than anything I’ve ever done.

MT: Reading a review once about Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridan,” I came across this critique: “I read it, but I’m glad it’s finished.” That reviewer was referring to the violence of that seminal novel — something that you are frequently critiqued on. For instance, just when I’d almost been able to put the image out of my mind, you had to bring up how Doug Dietz died in “The Weight of This World.” While I appreciate the nugget of tying your stories together, Darl’s crucifixion scene was already very potent. First, where do you dream up these all-too-real tortures, and second, how do answer those who say they’re too much?

DJ: It’s just something I’m interested in. A writer I’m currently interested in is Donald Ray Pollock. “The Heavenly Table” was the last novel that I just loved. A lot of it is that those are the types of stories I enjoy. I don’t know why, but they are.

You think about William Gay’s “The Paperhanger.” That story is horrifically violent. He murders this 3-year-old little kid and shoves him in a cooler and takes him home and keeps him in a freezer. But what interests me most about William Gay as a writer is that he somehow makes that palatable. He does it with language. If you look at the most poetic scenes of his writing, they are often the most violent, and somehow or another, he’s able to use language in such a way that it can force you to look at things you never wanted to look at.

As an artist and a writer, that’s something I’m very much interested in. When you get to these moments in the book, that’s what I’m trying to do. With the “The Weight of This World” it was little different. That book was very much a treatise on violence, but I wanted there to be moments where you were flat-out disgusted and wanted to turn away. And, I wanted there to be moments when you honestly cheered it on, where you wanted something bad to happen to somebody. That’s a very interesting line to think about. That’s the type of thing we witness over and over and over again.

When something horrific happens on the news first there’s a disgust but over time there’s a what do we do with it? There’s a vengeance, a justice. Where that line is drawn is a very interesting thing to think about.

MT: Although I’m going to take it out of context, you’ve responded to at least one reviewer that your novels are not for everyone. Who aren’t they for?

DJ: Lots of people. For instance, I’m friends with a whole lot of booksellers. And in my bookstore up here, City Lights in Sylva, sometimes people have carried my books to the front and said, “Are there bad words in it?” And they’ll kind of laugh and say, “There are bad words in it.” So, people like that.

People who are interested in happy endings. I have no interest in happy endings. That’s not to say I’ll never write a happy ending, I don’t know. “The Line That Held Us” probably has the happiest ending of anything I’ve written. A lot of times people want an easy escape. This isn’t an airplane read, something you pick up and breeze through and that’s that, the hero rides away in the sunset. This is not that kind of book and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re probably not going to like it.

I’m trying to raise big questions. I’m trying to force you to take a long, hard look at people you wouldn’t look at otherwise. A lot of people don’t want that from a book, and that’s perfectly OK. For me, as a reader, I’m typically not interested in those sheer entertainment books. There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s nothing against those writers, those readers. That’s just not what I do. That idea of the violence, again … a lot of people would rather go watch “Lion King” than “Reservoir Dogs.” That’s perfectly OK, but I’d rather watch “Reservoir Dogs.”

MT: As a writer, have you made it your mission to shape the world, the issues we should be examining, through your novels?

DJ: I studied literature, not creative writing, and a lot of how I think about books is drawn from that. In literature classes you didn’t so much look at the craft as you did the questions. You read a book and discussed the big ideas of that book. From a reader’s standpoint, from a student’s standpoint, that’s where I’m coming out of. I don’t read books that don’t raise big questions. My favorite book I’ve read recently is Tommy Orange’s “There, There.” That debut novel raises huge questions. You can’t read that book and not think about a whole lot of big things.

A lot of times when people don’t get my work or enjoy my work it’s because they don’t have a willingness to ask those questions, go to those places. Again, that’s perfectly fine, but as a writer, that’s what I’m interested in. With this one, it was how far are you willing to go for the people you love most? It was an examination of religion, it was a lot of things.

I don’t set out to write books like that in the way other writers do. For instance, T. Geronimo Johnson. … I sat down with him once and we were kind of talking and he told me very specifically that when he sat down to write “Welcome to Braggsville” he knew what he wanted to write a book about. He knew what the big question was. Then it became a matter of what kind of story do I tell in order to ask this question to start this conversation. That’s not how I work as a writer. … All of those things for me work on a subconscious level. I can’t tell what the book’s about until it’s done.

MT: For the last couple of novels, you’ve begun work on the next even before the tour begins for the current novel. So I’m wondering. …

DJ: Oh yeah, I’m in the middle of a novel now. I’d like to have a draft of it done before this one comes out. I don’t know if that will happen. But, the story’s there. The characters are there.

It’s currently titled, “When These Mountains Burn.” It starts as two stories. You have a father who has a son who’s a heroin addict and then you’ve got another story of an addict. The two stories are running parallel and then they start intertwining as the tension builds.

One of the things that interested me with the book I’m working on is trying to get to that other perspective of the family, of the father. That’s been very difficult for me in that’s not the story I know. I’ve never been a part of that aftermath, that conflict. I know the story of the addict, but I don’t know the story of the addict’s mother or father. The other aspect is watching the mountains dissolve around them. You’ve got this father who is not just losing his son, he’s losing his culture.

That’s what I’m working on. I don’t know if it will come out next year (2019). Odds are that it will come out the following year. I’m under contract for two novels, so I’ll have this one and one more coming out after that.

MT: You set quite a deadline for yourself. Disciplined or simply fast?

DJ: I think about my novels for months and months (before I write them) … so, yes, there’s discipline there, but a big part of it is that I’m trying to make a living that way — and that’s difficult to do at best.
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David Joy tweeted earlier this summer: “Just because you ain’t been reading the right books don’t mean they ain’t been written.”

I am distinctly under-read when it comes to literary fiction from authors residing in or from Appalachia.  I attribute this to picking poorly from a subset of the best-known authors from two decades ago, having so-so reading experiences and then not re-visiting Appalachian-based novels, as new authors came on the scene, remaining in contented ignorance of what I was missing. The Line That Held Us, and Joy’s earlier novels, among other gems is what I’ve been missing.  Don’t let my mistake be yours.

The Line That Held Us takes place in Jackson County, North Carolina. Jackson County has 494 square miles, and it borders the Cherokee reservation with its Harrah’s casino.  It also has a 23.1% poverty rate, well above the national average of 14%.  It is 85% white.  For those who make a living outdoors or in seasonal work, the winter can be long and hard.  One man’s poaching is another man’s survival plan for stocking his freezer up with meat to get through that winter.  Poaching turns into a mistaken hunting accident. Then a decision to hide the body because the brother of the victim is capable of violence.  That brother’s dedication to finding his missing brother and avenging his death. 

One man’s late-night agreement to help out his best friend, because that’s just what you do - even with a request that could bring the law and brothers with long memories into your life. 

A well-intentioned cop who won’t let something that doesn’t quite smell right go unexplored. 

A good woman kept in the dark about all of this, but inevitably drawn in because.  Because that’s how these stories always go.

And yet. Joy takes a scenario that’s fundamentally familiar and makes it fresh.  Each character is fully-realized. Each of their mistakes are relatively easy calls – even if they don’t turn out well. As in, each of us likely would have made the same calls under the circumstances.  The bad guy has a back story and ethos that makes the reader nod in understanding with his choices, even those which are criminal or at least violent.  He’s not a villain in his own eyes. He’s a hero. He’s 100% committed to doing what he believes is right. Joy’s control of his plot and his characters, as he shifts from place to place and as tension grows, is so masterful the reader isn’t aware of it. And that ending.  

Joy’s writing style in The Line That Held Us is a bit more colloquial than is my first preference. Conjunctions, for one. It’s markedly different than his writing in his immediately prior novel, The Weight of this World.  But the novel, as a whole, is a roaring success on its own terms. I debated the fifth star for a day, then caved.  It’s not a book I’ll be thinking about for months, but it is a fine ride in the moment.

The Line That Held Us could be right for you if you like darker novels, where everyday struggles are real, and average joes are trying to do the right thing, getting by, marrying, having babies, still have the same best friend they’ve had since high school, and just be happy. If you’re a Jack Reacher fan but want something different and less predictable. If you want to explore one of the best of the current group of Appalachian authors. If you like noir and want to take a break from reading story after story in urban settings.  If you like paragraphs like this: 

“Dwayne Brewer wanted desperately to go down that hillside and tell them the good news.  He wanted them to hold out their hands and he’d gift them the grace of God. There was mercy in the passing of strangers, in what watched from hillsides like ghosts, in the savage running barefoot through the soil. But the hearts of men were hardened things, their eyes not meant for seeing.”

Oh, and, for a good time, I strongly recommend you follow David Joy on Twitter: @DavidJoy_Author  
His feed’s not for the faint of heart.  But if you’re ready to open your eyes and learn about the real Appalachia, there’s nowhere better to find it.
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The Line That Held Us was my first novel by David Joy, but it definitely won't be my last.
You can read the synopsis and see what this is about so I won't repeat it here. I really honestly don't want to spoil any bit of the story! But I will say, upon starting I was worried that I would have a hard time relating to the characters in this book or understanding them/their ways. But a good story is a good story and this one just sunk right in and grabbed a hold on me. 
Being from the south I feel like writers, even southern writers, tend to go too far and don't really nail the details. Then I read David Joy and I feel like he totally gets it. Every dirty detail of it. He pays a lot of attention to the details and makes sure they are all correct. This book was filled with rage...with fire...with heart. This was a dark book. Definitely a fast read but one you should take your time with. Let it sit and soak for a bit. I didn't think for one second that this book was going to have a happy ending....even knowing that, I was excited to see where it went. 
Now, a lot of people may warn you about graphic scene involving decay or whatever, but not me. What I'm going to warn you about is the rat murder. LOL. The rat murder scenes in this book go right up there with the rat murder scene in American Psycho, in my opinion. He should get an award for describing such things to the point where I almost vomited. But once again I think those scenes were necessary for character. Which is weird because I'm one of those "I'd rather a human character die than an animal" people....but here we are. 

I received an ARC (Thank you!) of this book in exchange for an unbiased honest review.
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Fans of David Joy will love his newest offering, THE LINE THAT HELD US. Similar to his previous novels, this one is dark. I might even say gruesome at times. So just know that going in. It's more than worth it though. The writing is intense and extremely well-done. Ditto for character development (man the characters!) and sense of place (western NC). And finally the pace clicks along nicely and kept me up past my bedtime. At the end of this read you'll feel wrung out -- but in a good way.
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”I got friends who know how to have a good time
They roll their own and drink carolina shine
I’ve seen the devil in a dark coal mine
I’ve been higher than a Georgia pine

“Yeah there’s people all across the land
From New York out to ol’ San Fran
Just don’t give a damn all the time
In an outlaw state of mind”
--“Outlaw State of Mind,” Chris Stapleton, Songwriters: Ronnie Bowman / Chris Stapleton / Jerry Salley

4.5 Stars

Even though it was two months before the official hunting season began, Darl Moody was going hunting. He’d had his eye on that buck for a good two years, and by the size of him, he’d feed his family for a while on that one.

”Meat in the freezer was meat that didn’t have to be bought and paid for, and that came to mean a lot when the work petered off each winter.”

He follows signs of the deer’s path, the stripped bark, the scrapes on the ground, sipping from his pint of whiskey he had stashed in his camouflage pants, and listened for movement, waiting.

When he hears the snap of wood under a footstep, he turns to sees a gray-bodied animal on four legs, probably a boar hog, low to the ground.

”Three. Two. Squeeze.”

Darl Moody loves his family, helps out his mother when he can, and his sister and her family, too. He has a girlfriend he treats well, but they are far from rich. Simple, everyday folk, just trying to get from day to day with enough to get by on, and spend time with those they love. With this story, I think the less you know about it going in, the better it is, so I’m staying away from more of the plot.

This does to have a dark side to it; there are some disturbing descriptions included, but nothing that I found objectionable or gratuitous.

David Joy is one of my favourite authors for this genre, call it what you will. Southern Lit, Grit-Lit, Country-Noir, there are a plethora of categories that are variations on a theme. I’ve read all of his books, including his memoir, and loved them all. Some of my other favourite authors and their books came from a list of recommended books he used to have on his goodreads page, Taylor Brown, for one.

I read Joy’s “review” of this book, where he said that he “wanted to write a book as if William Gay and Flannery O'Connor co-wrote McCarthy's Child Of God. I wanted to create a "bad guy" as memorable as Lester Ballard, The Misfit, or the Paper-Hanger. This was as close as I could get to that.” I’ve only read one book by William Gay, several of Flannery O’Connor’s stories, and one McCarthy – although it was not his “Child of God,” but it seems to me that this hits the mark he was striving for.

David Joy is an incredibly gifted writer with a talent for weaving just enough darkness through his stories that you will feel every second tick by as the tension mounts, knowing that all it may take is just one small thing to change the course of this story.

Ask yourself what you would do for those you love, the people in your life that mean the most to you, and read this!


Pub Date: 14 AUG 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by PENGUIN GROUP Putnam / G.P. Putnam’s Sons
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When Darl is out attempting to poach ahead of deer hunting season he makes a terrible mistake, and so begins this incredible story. Filled with violence and vengeance this is a story that reminds us how far we can go for what we love. There are times when the action gets so intense that an author lacking the skill of Joy would spiral out of control, that never happened. The pace and build up to the ultimate climax was damn near perfection. A helluva read I would recommend to anyone, especially those, like myself, drawn to western North Carolina. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with this arc
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This is a difficult review to write. The ultimate message is searing and important but it was so painful and disturbing to claw my way to that point. This must be the most grim book I have ever read, combined with extremely descriptive visualizations of how a body decomposes. It possesses such a raw urgency which underlies its extreme power but hurt to read . When Darl goes poaching onto a neighbor's land to shoot some game, he accidentally shoots the brother of one of the most crazed men around. Darl enlists his friend for life to help him bury the body as he sees no other way out. Suffice it to say that none of this ends well. On the plus side, it was wonderfully visual and perfect for an audio book. Religion, poverty, southern men, stoicism and ultimately love are wrapped up in a tight bundle, asking the ultimate question,"who would you give your life for?"Not for the faint hearted but for those able and willing to take a dive, it will be profound.
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Darl Moody accidentally shoots Carol (Sissy) Brewer while poaching deer on the property of Tillmon (Coon) Coward. Carol was poaching ginseng on Coon's property, when Darl mistook him for a wild hog. Calling the police would have been smart, but that didn't happen. Instead Darl panics and gets his best friend Calvin Hooper to help him, but their efforts wind up tearing apart not only their lives, but those of the people around them. Darl and Calvin aren't smart enough to hide from Carol's brother Dwayne, who is filled with an equal mix of grief and the desire for revenge. Dwayne has spent his whole life protecting Carol and isn't going to stop now.  

What would you do if someone killed the only person you had to love in this world?  How far would you go to help your best friend?  Whose life means more to you?  Should you spread the pain you feel or can you find redemption and end the cycle?  This book makes you think about all of those questions and leaves a giant one unanswered at the end. It was brilliant. 

This was my third book by this author and I'll read anything else he chooses to write. I like it that he writes southern noir with the minimum of the clichés of the genre. This book had characters with actual jobs other than meth dealer. There were no guys who spend all their time drinking beer as they ride around in their pickups, stopping occasionally to commit senseless acts of violence. Not that this book wasn't violent.  It's just that I understood the motivation.  Even Dwayne's, who was ultimately a tragic (though scary) figure. There are also some disgusting (non-violent) scenes that are not for the squeamish and some small animals are murdered horrifically. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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If an author makes me want to keep reading well past bedtime, I am a fan for life. David Joy's books are so atmospheric and lyrical that I had to slow down to reread passages that were so beautifully crafted. The Line That Held Us definitely falls into this category.  There are hints of Flannery O'Connor, Tim O'Brien, William Faulkner, and Cormac McCarthy here, making The Line That Held Us a bit creepy and gothic, too--in a good way. Is Appalachian Gothic a thing? If it is, David Joy's books fall into that category. I would always like to see a few more complex female characters, but the male characters are so compelling and the book is so suspenseful, I was happy to keep reading.
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David Joy is a Jedi master with language and words,  transposing them into the finest pieces of storytelling you’ll ever get your hands on. His third novel is no exception and he starts it with one of the best opening line I’ve seen in a while.
[Darl Moody didn’t give a wet sack of shit what the state considered poaching.]
In The Line That Held Us, Joy stays close to his old habits that I believe his readers love to see in every story the man writes – one that is deeply rooted in place, characters trying to play the hands they are dealt, and survive a noir world. He does it while showing the incredible beauty  this world hides. The beauty in going down the bottom of a pitch black barrel and coming out of it bruised and scattered, but alive and with a faint dim of light showing in your eyes. In Joy’s novel, survival is the true happy ending.
That novel also clashes with Joy’s other work in the aspect that it has a proper villain. A William Gay-esque twisted and fucked up human being.  A mean, bat-shit crazy, disgusting man that is blinded by love. A love so strong that it’ll eventually send him on a violent bender, chasing for vengeance, retribution and redemption. I know some will say that Jacob’s father also was a proper villain, although I’ve always pictured Jacob as his own worst enemy. So there you have it : A man with nothing to lose, now that he did the only thing he loved in this world, chasing after two best friends, ready to destroy anything or anyone that shall cross his path.
This is the story of what you’ll do for the ones you love. Of what one would endure and fight for in the name of a significant other. A story about the bond between two human beings that is tougher than the rest. A story that made me shiver, gasp, shout and cry as much as it touched my heart. This is not a story about black or white, about light or dark,  nor that it is about good vs evil. 
This is a love story à la David Joy.
I cannot recommend this novel enough. Joy’s talent and prose is only matched by the magnificence of the Appalachian Mountains.
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Find all of my reviews at:  http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

♪♫♪ “Hello Darkness, my old friend . . . ” ♪♫♪

Oh Mr. Joy, how I’ve missed you.

Perhaps the most ironic thing of all when it comes to this author is his name.  If you were ever curious where the “Black As Mitchell’s Heart” moniker came from – David Joy’s stories are about as bleak as one brain could ever conjure.  As my <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2230705807?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1">Bookwife</a> stated over on her review, we pretty much have a Google Alert set for anything new in David Joy’s world, up to and including I now read what he tells me to (thanks again for turning me on to <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2343870763?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1">Larry Brown</a>).  We most definitely were in full-fledged “This Is America and We Want It Now” mode while waiting to be approved for <i>The Line That Held Us</i> and I am so happy to say that once again David Joy delivered the misery in spades – just the way I like it.

The story here is pretty simple – Darl Moody has been chasing after a dream buck for ages and has tracked him down to Coon Coward’s private property.  What ol’ Coon don’t know won’t hurt him, though, so Darl waits until he’s out of town and sets about in the wee hours to do some poaching.  The only thing he wasn’t expecting?  Carol Brewer to be doing some poaching of his own – digging ginseng to be exact.  Rather than face the crazy which is Dwayne Brewer, Darl does the only other thing he can think of – enlist his best friend Calvin’s help and bury the body . . . . 

I know what you're thinking:  "This can't end well."  That might possibly be the best thing about David Joy’s books.  You <b>know</b> there is not going to be a happy ending or that the characters will magically escape the superbadawful they have set themselves up for.  I love how his stories are all different, but touch on similar themes of love, loyalty, family, friendship and religion (in the most shuddery way possible).  Not to mention, he really makes you feel like you are truly in the heart of the south. 

When it comes to hick lit, he’s the bees knees.  Every Star.

<i>Many thanks to NetGalley for approving me for this one before I stormed your offices!</i>
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Joy is the most looked forward to author for me now.   Easiest five stars ive gave this year.   
great book!
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I've been a big David Joy fan ever since his debut novel, WHERE ALL LIGHT TENDS TO GO, was released in 2015. It was one of my favorite crime reads of that year. Joy solidified his place as a master of Appalachian Noir with his sophomore effort, THE WEIGHT OF THIS WORLD . Now, with THE LINE THAT HELD US he has simply expanded upon an ever increasing catalog of top-notch fiction. I've previously stated that Joy's writing is poetic, brutal, and illuminating,  reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell and Ron Rash, and that continues to be the case. In this latest gem, Joy sets the reader up with a pretty simple premise: Darl Moody is hunting in the woods and accidentally shoots a man he mistakes for a deer. Unfortunately for Darl, the man he killed is a Brewer, and has a brother, Dwayne Brewer, who is no foreigner to bloodlust. Fearing reprisal, Darl hides the killing with the help of his best friend, Calvin Hooper. The rest of the novel is an action-packed Russian nesting doll of increasing complications, twists, and turns. Joy is a master at making a reader wince with dread. You just have a sense that things aren't going to end well for his characters. Interestingly enough, though, this novel offers up more hope than his previous two. "Grace" is a word that is thrown around in the book, and is easily one of the novel's themes. And grace has gifted us with the talented David Joy. Put this book at the top of your list of summer reads.
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Alright folks, get ready for a dark tale that'll drag you down into the land of human suffering. You won't be alone. All of David Joy's characters live there. Get ready to be conflicted beyond measure. Based on this story's theme, there are no villains and there are no victims...there is simply fate and survival and sacrifice.

The Line That Held Us is sorrowful and full of rage and consequence, with ample threads of beauty that appear at the most unexpected times. Dark, raw, pure, and philosophically psychotic, this is a must read! David Joy knows what he’s doing.

My favorite quote:
To be announced upon publication if I can choose between my 71 kindle highlights...

Thank you to the following for permitting me access to an advance reader's copy (ARC) of The Line That Held Us. This generosity did not impact my honesty when rating/reviewing.
Source: NetGalley
Author: David Joy
Publisher: Penguin Group Putnam - G.P. Putnam's Sons
Genres: General Fiction (Adult)
Pub Date: August 14, 2018
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The Line That Held us is a story of that takes place in the border region of Tennessee and North Carolina. Darl, who poaches to make ends meet stalks a large buck on private property. Also Carol, Sissy, Brewer steals ginseng from the same property. Carol, although, not fully explained seem is slow. While digging around for ginseng, he is mistaken for a boar by Darl. Darl is 200 yards away, and Carol is dressed in gray and on all fours. Darl fires and kills Carol. He panics and gets the help of his best friend, Calvin, to help. Calvin reluctantly agrees and helps dispose of the body. Carol is noticed missing by his brother, Dwayne, who is violent, drinks too much, and is big enough to get away with it. Dwayne starts investigating his brother's death and what develops is a classic case of Appalachian justice and revenge.

The characters are well developed and diverse although there is some stereotyping. Dwayne is perhaps the most stereotypical. His massive size and backwoods attitude make him a driving figure in the book. The setting contributes to the free action of the characters. Things that normally couldn't be done in the urban or suburban setting fit perfectly in Appalachia. The plot moves quickly but not always predictably leaving the reader on a thrilling ride. I picked up this book and did not set it down until it I finished. It was quite a ride, and I found it quite a surprise in contemporary fiction. A well thought out and exciting read.
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From the first second we heard about this book..my partner in crime and I went into full fangirling mode...…..Then it went up on Netgalley. We plotted ways to beg for it. We checked Netgalley a thousand times a day multiple times.



The book gods were good to us one day and someone messed up and let us get approved. Thank you!!!

See David Joy is an author that has caught us by our dark little dried up hearts. It's even to the point where we've started going to his site and seeing what he is reading and adding even those books to our TBRs. *Dear Mr Joy..please don't file those restraining orders-we are both too lazy and anti-social to leave our houses.*



I know. I should be ashamed of myself. 

#sorrynotsorry

Enough rambling! On to the book...and what a frigging book this is. (Don't worry I'm not going to spoil anything. I just ramble on about books I love because I WANT everyone to experience them.)

Darl Moody sneaks onto an old man's property to hunt that monster buck that he has been drooling over. He sees what he thinks is it but once he shoots it he realizes that he has shot a man that was also taking advantage of that old man's absence by stealing his ginseng. So Darl goes to his best buddy Calvin and gets him to agree to just bury the body. That way they don't end up in trouble.

That always works.

Yeah right.

Turns out that the man he shot has a bat shit crazy brother. 

That's when the fun really starts.


There is something about David Joy's writing. I honestly think he is really the best I've read at hitting the whole gritty south thing. He makes you care for characters that you never imagined even considering. He makes you think. He KNOWS the mountains better than so many that try to write these kinds of books just never can lay their finger on. I just can't even begin to describe how good he is. And you guys know my hateful ass does not give compliments easily. This guy is the real deal. 
Now that being said. This book is dark as hell. I mean so dark that I need to go and read something fluffy now to erase the images from my mind. You know...something by Stephen King or similar to that.
Because this bad boy makes you bring out the dark side..and it sorta scared my pants off.



All the frigging stars.

The devil drew the line between the selfless and the selfish so that often a man could not tell on which side he stood.
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David Joy is a heck of a writer and he can capture a sense of place better than most. But, and it’s a big but, his writing is dark. Exceptionally dark. I think the reviewer who commented that it could be called bleaktion. Ultimately, too bleak for my taste.
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I'm between 4 and 4.5 stars.

After reading David Joy's newest novel, I've come to the conclusion that writers like him and Michael Farris Smith deserve their own sub-genre of fiction, one that I'll call "bleak-tion."

This sub-genre would contain beautifully written books in which a feeling of despair or doom is quite pervasive, and you know that something monumentally, well, bleak is going to happen. (See Joy's The Weight of This World or Smith's Desperation Road or The Fighter.) I don't mean this in a disparaging way, but you shouldn't read these novels in search of a belly laugh.

In the latest addition to the world of bleak-tion, The Line That Held Us, Darl Moody is a country boy who may not have a ton of ambition, but he has taken good care of his mother as well as his married sister and her family since the death of his father a few years before. He's never done anything worse than drink one (or two) too many, except perhaps try and hunt a deer before the season officially opens.

When he's convinced he has seen a colossal buck roaming another man's land, he needs to find it. He knows that poaching is wrong, and he knows it's even worse when you're hunting off the land of a man who is out of town for his sister's funeral, but this buck could provide enough for him and his family to eat. Although the deer proves elusive, he spots a wild hog and takes aim.

It's not a hog he has killed, however; it's Carol "Sissy" Brewer, the slower, gentler son of the brash, violent Brewer family. Carol was hunting ginseng on the farm when he was shot. Darl doesn't know what to do, so he turns to the only person he has ever been able to count on, his best friend since childhood, Calvin Hooper. Despite Calvin's misgivings, he agrees to help Darl bury Carol, and the two vow never to tell anyone what happened that night, which becomes progressively harder as they become increasingly haunted by the events of that evening.

When Carol's older brother Dwayne comes looking for him, he knows right away something bad has happened, and he will leave no stone unturned until he finds what happened to him, and whom shall be held responsible. This determination to uncover the mystery of his brother's disappearance sets him on a collision course with Darl and Calvin, and threatens to upend all of their lives. Dwayne believes in an eye for an eye, and he will exact his revenge, no matter how many people get hurt in the process.

Needless to say, this isn't a happy read, but it is powerful—even gut-wrenching at times—and you probably can predict how the story will unfold. But Joy is an exceptional storyteller, and even the commonplace becomes more fascinating when seen through his lens. He so accurately evokes the mounting sense of dread, the fear, the unhingedness that his characters feel, and he draws you into a story which only rarely has moments of lightness.

Fair warning: this is a book with some graphically depicted violence (mostly toward humans and once toward an animal) and some pretty detailed descriptions of the process a body goes through once a person's life ends. (It made for a somewhat squeamish read on my red-eye flight, I must tell you.) If those things are triggers for you, you'll probably want to pass this one by.

You may want to have a more lighthearted novel at the ready after you finish The Line That Held Us, but you should definitely read this, if only to see a master of bleak-tion at work once again.

NetGalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
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