ROUGH ANIMALS

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When a feral 14-year-old girl kills four of his cattle, a Utah rancher not so much older than she chases her into the physical and spiritual wilderness for 12 blood-soaked days.

This take-no-prisoners debut from DelBianco—"that redneck kid author," according to her Twitter profile—has been compared to Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Ron Rash, Donald Ray Pollock, and Jim Thompson, and rather than argue, we'll just throw in Gabriel Tallent. Against a backdrop of ferocious, visceral, almost psychedelically intense nature writing, the two main characters participate in a series of gunfights, murders, fires, and drug deals gone wrong. They journey on foot, by pickup truck, muleback and horseback through the desert, barely outrunning the coyotes and drinking the blood of dead animals to avoid dehydration, stealing antibiotics from the pet aisle of Walmart for their suppurating wounds, all the while warily deciding—and then reconsidering—whether they are enemies or allies. The young rancher, Wyatt Smith, is a twin, and this quest for revenge has forced him to leave his sister, Lucy, alone at the wilderness homestead where they were orphaned as teenagers in an incident which has left Lucy permanently damaged, an incident revisited in ever more revealing flashbacks. "Killing's not an end but a transfer of power," explains the mysterious, unnamed, remorseless, wily, and preternaturally articulate girl killer. "If you kill sincerely, it's impersonal, it's done without hesitation, and with the intent to use it to its fullest purpose." Wyatt's life would be a lot simpler if he could find a way to agree with her.

Man, this "redneck kid author" can write.

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