ISBN #: 978-0805099515
Page Count: 272
Copyright: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
(Taken from Amazon)
Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.
At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.
The title is both literal in its description of the two main characters, as well as being figuratively demonstrative. Both Gload and Millimaki grew up with farming fathers and learned how to plow a field each season. As adults, though, each has chosen a career path that's taken them away from plowing ... or so they think.
Gload began killing when he was a teenager. From the first killing, he realized he feels no remorse for those he murders. As he's aged, Gload now includes mercy killings in his long list of deaths. He sees it as a kindness for those who are aged and demented, or sick with a debilitating illness. So, in essence, he's plowing the field of humanity eliminating the weeds that are intermingled with the healthy harvest.
Millimaki realized at a very young age through a family tragedy that he had a penchant for dealing with the dead. He winds up working for the local law enforcement as a jailer, but he also finds missing persons. Most of the time the people he finds are dead. This begins to affect his dreams and Millimaki eventually becomes an insomniac. In his profession, Millimaki is a ploughman harvesting dead bodies from the earth and bringing them home to rest.
When the two men become connected, Gload recognizes the similarities between the two of them. The more time Gload and Millimaki spend together, the more the two become acquaintances ... maybe even friends. Will Gload open up enough to Millimaki to tell him where all the dead bodies are for his murders? Will Millimaki survive this tumultuous time in his personal and professional life? Will Gload's reasoning rub off on Milliamaki? What about the goodness in Millimaki rubbing off on Gload?
The Ploughmen's two main characters are deep and complex. They are complicated enough to make this a work of literature sure to last throughout the years. This will soon become a topic of discussion for many book clubs the world over. I rather enjoyed this deeply serious, thought-provoking novel and think you would, too.
*A paperback copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.