In the dead of night a teenage girl lifts the baby she is caring for out of the cot and walks out of the house and up into the Cumbrian Hills. Her desire to be far far away from that place drives her and she has taken very little possessions and almost no protection against the elements.
When the householder discovers her absence he heads to speak to the local priest, as she came from the workhouse under his charge. The incensed priest calls on the services of the local poacher and his dog to help him track the girl down.
She walks up into the hills, sleeping rough, staying out of sight, getting help from those that can see a vulnerable girl in need. Living on almost nothing the child and her begin to suffer. She takes risks, some of which pay off. All to put distance between her and the baby and the man she knows will be following.
Poacher and priest march on relentlessly. Seeking, tracking, following trails and finding where they slept. They are wary of each other though, constantly battling through their dialogue. The priest claims the moral high ground, the poacher goading, before getting a glimpse of what obsesses the priest.
Two Benjamin Myers books in a week is a baptism by literary fire. Thought the Gallows Pole was brilliant, but this is another level of intensity again. The sparse prose emerges deep from within the landscape they are traversing and it seeks into your psyche capillary style. The characters are not two dimensional, rather they are stark and raw like a grainy black and white picture. I thought that the juxtaposition between who you would perceive as good and who actually was, was really cleverly done. It deals with some very dark disturbing themes, as one pair chase the other across the hills and the ending does not pull any punches at all.
Shocking. Brilliant. If you liked the Wasp Factory, this is another book like that.