“In Wheatley, South Dakota, during the summer before Mike Newlin is to begin college, his father, an insurance salesman, shoots and kills the young woman who works for him as his receptionist. He disappears, and Mike is left behind in shock and grief. With his future suddenly obscured, Mike finds himself nearly overwhelmed by his present circumstances–not only the emotional damage inflicted by his father’s awful crime but also his mother’s dismay, the insinuating methods of a criminal investigator named Tom DeWitt, his girlfriend’s anxieties, and his longing for an older woman who lives nearby–and the question of whether he will ever see his father again and what will happen if he does.
As imposing as the landscape that forms its setting, From the Black Hills conveys with compassionate power the drama of a young man who must try to overcome his father’s dark legacy.” –Summary from Amazon.
There isn’t really any action involved in this story, it’s mostly just teenage boy angst, but it was really interesting because it shines a light on the struggles the families of killers go through. I feel like these families are often overlooked or maybe even demonized sometimes. It was nice to see the focus not on the killer himself but his family instead – his son in particular. Mike struggles with the knowledge that what his father did was a horrible crime but also feeling like he should stand by his father because he is family and should be given the chance to explain. Although Mike doesn’t have any trouble acknowledging his father’s weaknesses and flaws, his dad was a constant in his life. With such a central part of his life upended, his entire view of himself and life in general is shaken. With that upheaval, he struggles to move forward; he becomes stuck in the present fact that his father killed someone, ran away, and could pop up at any time to see him or ask for help. To add to that confusion, the detective Tom DeWitt keeps trying to draw Mike in to the investigation in ways he doesn’t understand or trust. He’s a confused, scared teenager who wasn’t given any time to come to terms with what happened before he was bombarded with sudden responsibilities he could never prepare for – PLUS starting college!
This was a unique story angle in my opinion and worth the read. It’s also a fairly quick read if that’s what you prefer. Also, Mike’s descriptions of his home town made me want to go see the mountains of South Dakota 🙂