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The Line That Held Us by David Joy

The Line That Held Us

by David Joy

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Quick take

This Appalachian tale of accidental murder and vigilante justice would do Cormac McCarthy proud.

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When Darl Moody went hunting after a monster buck he’s chased for years, he never expected he’d accidentally shoot a man digging ginseng. Worse yet, he’s killed a Brewer, a family notorious for vengeance and violence. With nowhere to turn, Darl calls on the help of the only man he knows will answer—his best friend, Calvin Hooper. But when Dwayne Brewer comes looking for his missing brother and stumbles onto a blood trail leading straight back to Darl and Calvin, a nightmare of revenge rips apart their world. The Line That Held Us is a story of friendship and family, a tale balanced between destruction and redemption where the only hope is to hold on tight, clenching to those you love. What will you do for the people who mean the most, and what will you grasp to when all that you have is gone? The only certainty in a place so shredded is that no one will get away unscathed.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of David Joy's The Line That Held Us.
The Line That Held Us


Darl Moody didn't give a wet sack of shit what the state considered poaching. Way he figured, anybody who'd whittle a rifle season down to two weeks and not allot for a single doe day didn't care whether a man starved to death. Meat in the freezer was meat that didn't have to be bought and paid for, and that came to mean a lot when the work petered off each winter. So even though it was almost two months early, he was going hunting.

The buck Darl'd seen crossing from the Buchanan farm into Coon Coward's woods for the past two years had a rocking chair on his head and a neck thick as a tree trunk. Coon wouldn't let a man set foot on his land on account of the ginseng hidden there, but Coon was out of town. The old man had gone to the flatland to bury his sister and wouldn't be back for a week.

The cove was full of sign: rubs that stripped bark off maples and birch, scrapes all over the ground where button bucks scratched soil with something instinctual telling them to do so but lacking any rhyme or reason. A mature buck knew exactly what he was doing when he ripped at the ground like he was hoeing a line with his hooves, but the young ones ran around wild. They'd scrape all over the place, trying to add to a conversation they were too inexperienced to understand.

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Why I love it

You may be wondering why we didn’t classify this book as a thriller. We could’ve used the umbrella term, but isn’t “Appalachian noir” so much better? It’s a label that author David Joy sometimes uses to characterize his writing, which is often about ordinary, hard-working people in shady, dire situations. Think smoking guns and shadowy outlaws, but in the backcountry. I mean, how can you not want to read this?

Darl Moody is just a regular guy trying to fill his freezer with deer meat before winter comes. When he goes hunting, he doesn’t expect to accidentally bring down a human—and he definitely doesn’t expect to fell Carol Brewer of the infamously violent Brewer family, a clan that even “Jesus Christ couldn’t have saved.” Despite his attempts to cover his tracks, Darl’s mistake conjures a revenge tornado in the form of the murderous Dwayne Brewer, whose grief will only be tempered when he delivers vengeance to Darl and those closest to him.

Think Cormac McCarthy, Tarantino, or your favorite Coen Brothers film. That’s the kind of rollicking, oh-shit-what’s-gonna-happen-next ride you’re in for here. This is also a surprisingly philosophical book. Who gets to mete out justice? Isn’t “an eye for an eye” fair? For all its homespun wisdom, though, what The Line That Held Us really nails is the plot—and what could be plottier than the woodland disputes of trigger-happy vigilantes? So get this book, hunker down, and enjoy!

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Member ratings (3,800)

  • Conner H.

    Fort Collins, CO

    This book took my breath away. It’s strength lies in it’s gorgeous diction and its brutally raw portrayal of rural, poor Appalachia. I didn’t care about the story and I don’t care that I didn’t care.

  • Quiana M.

    Kingsport , TN

    Being an Appalachian native, I appreciated the way Joy wrote about the culture. The characters are well developed and drew me in... It’s pretty dark and raw, but I couldn’t stop reading until the end!

  • Patty H.

    Pocahontas, AR

    Action FIRST THING! Almost too soon because I don’t feel I had connected with any of the characters yet. But WOW! And it never stopped! But it’s also a story of love for friends and family. Good read!

  • Kristina H.

    Elmore, AL

    If you like Hatfield and McCoys then you’ll love this book! I couldn’t put this book down! It kept me turning the pages to see what was going to happen. I will be reading more from this author now!

  • Erica M.

    Greensboro, NC

    This is one of those books that sticks with you long after you finish! The writing was lyrical and the imagery was gripping. I couldn’t put this one down! Not for the faint of heart, but worth a read.

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