Current Reads

Straight to the Heart

Kent Meyers reconstructs a murdered teenager through 16 townspeople who knew her.

Book Cover No doubt my fondness for the geography of my youth (Chicago and neighboring Big 10 states) has contributed to my sensitivity to regional chauvinism—who coined the phrase “flyover zone” anyway? Anyway, that fondness extends to the bountiful literature that pours out of that region from the pens of Kent Harouf, Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison, Mark Spragg, Elmore Leonard, Mark Winegarder, Karl Iagnemma, and such. Kent Meyers (The Work of Wolves) hails from those parts, living in Spearfish, S.D. (not far from Deadwood) and mentoring at Black Hills State University.

His new novel Twisted Tree (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), set in the fictional town that names the book, is fabricated around the central act of teenager Hayley Jo Zimmerman’s abduction and murder, and the 16 stories of the various people who were acquainted with her. George Orwell mused that everyone’s life is different from the inside, and that notion is echoed in the harrowing first chapter by Hayley’s sociopath serial-killing abductor, “Everyone has a life that no one else knows.”

The killer ruminates:
It reminded him… of the smears of color on his fingertips when as a child he caught butterflies, such patient, almost breathless stalking, all of summer suspended waiting for his finger and thumb to close and clasp, and then the faraway, membranous struggle, the feeble legs disjointed in the air. When he rolled his thumb and finger together the tissue wings turned to colored dust. He dropped the crippled things, watched their stick legs pump mechanically as they crawled away. Up and down the legs went stupidly over the grass, dragging the shreds of wings. They were very small. He rubbed the dust stains on his fingers off onto his pants, then wiped his pants with his palms and his palms on the grass until he didn’t know whether the stain was gone or had permeated everything…
Meyer has created a rich and varied array of inhabitants in Twisted Tree, and their lives in aggregate produce a complex, compelling, and wonderfully readable narrative of lives rippling through each other.
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