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The Ploughmen    by Kim Zupan order for
by Kim Zupan
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Set in Montana, this intriguing novel focuses on two men with very dissimilar lives yet some odd connections as well. John Gload is a contract killer who has a long list of victims. In his late seventies, he has been arrested and is locked up in a small, rural jail.

Valentine Millimaki is the Deputy Sheriff who draws night duty and must look after the killer. During the long, cold, lonely night shift the two men strike up an acquaintance and share some of the particulars that brought each one to this point in his life.

Both men share a love of nature and a farm background. Also, important events in their youth set the course for how their adult lives turned out. As the complicated friendship between these two develops, the reader will discover the relevance of the novel's title and how it relates to these individuals.

Zupan lives in Missoula, Montana, and his knowledge of the natural environs of his home state is central to the development of this unforgettable tale of friendship and violence. Kim Zupan sets his hook early and once he reels you in, you are his until you finish this spellbinding story.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth (Rating:3):

NPR declared that The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan was one of NPR's Best Books of 2014. I must agree. Also, The Ploughmen was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Deep in the lonesome Montana country, this wonderful debut novel explores the strange relationship between John Gload, a prisoner awaiting execution, and Valentine Millimaki, the young prison guard who drew overnight duty until Gload's demise.

We read of their incredible stories while also becoming familiar with the Montana countryside, which becomes as though another character in the novel. We learn of the colors of rocks at different times of the day; the temperature of a fast-running stream; the blackness of a moonless night; the fragrance of a meadow of wild flowers at their peak. A beautiful place to be.

But we also learn Gload's story and the brutal life he led. At the same time, young Millimaki is trying to come to terms with his own life which he suspects is similar to Gload's. It feels as though we are being allowed to eavesdrop on them as we learn of their personalities. It seems as though the two men should not have anything in common. Their discussions make us see that they are not too far apart in their thinking. Just that one took one path in life while the other took the adjacent path.

Though Gload led a very brutal life and gave little thought to those he killed, Millimaki questioned his own decisions and listened to the older man give counsel. This is a gloriously written book that should not be missed.

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