BOOK REVIEW | The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan.jpg

4/5 stars

From the publisher:
A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana.

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.

My thoughts:
Darling – come alone to the shed.

Wow – this book is unsettling, dark, violent, and yet so beautifully written. The Ploughmen is set in the stark Montana landscape, and focuses on an unexpected relationship between Gload, a career criminal who has finally been arrested at age 77, and Millimaki, the sheriff tasked with watching Gload during the night shift.

During their nights together in the county jail, the two men slowly bond over their shared experiences: both are, essentially, orphans, both are rural men, and both experience complex relationships with the women in their lives. The weight of this unlikely friendships lays heavily with Millimaki, and ultimately comes to a head by the end of this story. And that ending?? Perfection.

I’ve read criticism that The Ploughmen is overwritten, but this didn’t bother me at all. I found Zupan’s writing descriptive and lyrical, and it helped to immerse me into his world. I tend to enjoy writers who are self assured about what they are doing and go all in (I’m looking at you, John Irving), as long as the writing is as good as this is. I love when a writer gives it their all – why would we want anything less?

I’ve loved The Ploughmen, and loved the feel of this modern western – I will definitely be looking for more of Zupan’s work in the future. Have you read any books that fall into a similar classification? I’d love some recommendations!

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