Menace finds its way easily, rooting out the defenseless with eager eyes, uncovering the vulnerable. Jamie Hall is such a one, a girl who describes herself as "someone things just happen to". Setting off on foot after the death of her mother, an orphan with only her dog for a companion, Jamie has no one and belongs nowhere. With only her family history as a guide, Jamie heads for Dyers Corner, the only other place she has ever been, trekking across a chilly winter landscape to the place her grandparents were forced to leave by the government, who flooded their land with a reservoir, its icy surface belying the fact that people's histories are submerged in its watery depths.
It is 1976 and poverty is familiar to Jamie, who takes up little space and asks nothing she can't pay for, a few bills tucked in her pocket. Along the way, Jamie draws attention, her youthful beauty, her aloneness, save the dog at her side. Confronted with the barrenness around her, Jamie looks for shelter, accepting it from a married man who drinks too much and will leave her soon, finding temporary employment with Margaret, a photographer who has recorded the history of this place in pictures that line the walls of her home, traveling now, secure in the knowledge that Jamie is caring for her things.
When Jamie comes upon a boy tied to a tree, she sets him free, unleashing a series of events that bring with them the promise of malevolence, aggravating the somnolent men who are content to rage in private until one of them is interfered with, the pristine countryside in counterpoint to the seething menace of the boy's father and a local poacher. Jamie's only solace in this bitter land is Galen, a trapper who lives in isolation, content to avoid the past until Jamie needs his protection.
There are innocents: Jamie is one; the boy, made wild by a brutal father, now ranging across the hills in search of mischief; and the dog, a happy companion to those who treat him kindly. The opposing forces converge, innocent and guilty, crazed and calm, in stark relief against an unforgiving wilderness, where innocence has no place and violence thrives, while nature, indifferent, looks on. In lyrical prose familiar from Blue Horse Dreaming, Wallace delivers a powerful tale, a taut and seductive vision of poverty, loneliness and the cruelty bred of ignorance, one young girl walking through the heart of darkness, the devil snapping at her heels. Luan Gaines.