Back to the Dirt
by Frank Bill
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Pub Date 09 May 2023 | Archive Date 30 Jun 2023
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, FSG Originals
Frank Bill is back with a gritty, wrenching novel from deep inside the traumas of a broken American heartland.
Miles is a Vietnam vet who’s worried he’s going to lose his job and his tenuous grasp on a stable life because of a fight he had with a coworker over some steroids. His PTSD and struggles to control his steroid-fueled violent tendencies complicate life with his girlfriend, Shelby, a stripper who only occasionally seems to have the proverbial heart of gold. She certainly seems to possess more kindness and generosity than her brother, Wylie, who’s currently on the run after being implicated in the deaths of two local oxycodone dealers and has their relatives on his tail. When Wylie kidnaps his sister and holes up in Miles's country lair, it is, frankly, threatening to become a bit too much for steroid-addled Miles to handle.
Frank Bill’s world is as wild and rollicking as ever, punctuated with uproarious event after uproarious event. But in Back to the Dirt, he goes deeper than wall-to-wall brawl—with Miles, he takes us back to the experiences overseas that stripped the innocence and optimism from the heartland dream; with Shelby, he shows us that you didn’t have to travel to Vietnam to see real darkness. But still, even in this benighted state, there’s the dirt to come back to. And maybe, just maybe, Bill shows, that can be enough.
★ "Bill draws wrenching parallels between battle and family-abuse trauma through evocative hallucinations, survival-of-the-fittest settings, and disarming compassion . . . Bill’s descriptions are both ugly and beautiful, often merging the hunt with Miles’ Vietnam flashbacks, capturing the realities of those resigned to being left behind and the violence that offers short-lived power." —Booklist
"Bill’s feverish latest shines a light on an American heartland blighted by crushed dreams and debilitating addictions . . . With kinetic prose, Bill keeps up the pace and delivers a steady supply of grisly details . . . It makes for one hell of a ride. " —Publishers Weekly
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