Set in a bitterly benighted, mine-polluted corner of Virginia, Nitro Mountain follows a group of people bound together by alcohol, small-time crime and music. Read more...
Set in a bitterly benighted, mine-polluted corner of Virginia, Nitro Mountain follows a group of people bound together by alcohol, small-time crime and music. There's Leon, a hapless bass player who can embroil himself in trouble just by getting out of bed in the morning. And his would-be girlfriend, Jennifer, who's living with Arnett, the town's most dangerous thug--and hoping Leon will help her poison him. And there's Arnett himself, a psychopath for the ages--albeit so charming and deranged, so strikingly authentic, that he arrests the reader's attention at first sight and holds it fast. His mirror image, a singer-songwriter named Jones, has his own moral issues, though at least he's trying to be a good man. The bright if battered soul who pulls us through this story is Jennifer, a vulnerable yet strong woman struggling heroically to survive the endemic hopelessness and violence that have surrounded her since birth. Relentless? Yes, of course, but never remotely gratuitous. Every single moment is shot through with the pain and misery that inspire so much of the music these people love more than life itself.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Debut author Johnson has crafted an exquisitely stark and gritty portrait of life in Virginia mining country. Leon is a crass, hard-drinking bluegrass bass player with an unrequited love interest, Jennifer. She has survived childhood sexual abuse and intends to remain adrift while renovating an abandoned inn on Nitro Mountain with Arnett Atkins, an increasingly unstable felon. Arnett has been violent with her, and though she’s terrified, she confides in Leon and begs him to help her poison Arnett. Their plot fails and the tables turn, resulting in disastrous, bloody consequences. Throughout, Johnson’s narrative remains grainy as sandpaper and engages with the dusty country allure of a Ron Rash novel. At the conclusion, Jennifer is no better off than she was at the story’s outset, a minor miracle for such a serpentine novel with so many dark, treacherous edges. Stark and raw, yet relentlessly compelling, Johnson’s hardscrabble characters are awash in alcohol and dirty melodrama, constantly trying to claw their way out of the dingy reality holding them hostage. (May)