NESTLED AMONG THE ROLLING HILLS AND FORESTS OF UPSTATE PENNSYLVANIA, THE RAND FAMILY have worked their sixty acres wheat-and-cattle farm since a predatory Henry Rand purchased it in the 1960s, and sowed his insidious seed into its soil.
Henry nurtured his crops and his dark secret before falling to a brutal death down the farm cellar’s stone staircase one frozen Christmas Eve.
Following in his father’s footsteps, son Jack inherits the farm and yields to a familial compunction to keep working its land.
But continuing to reap Henry’s crops year after year while trying to provide for his wife, Patty and their son Sullivan eats at Jack’s soul, mirroring an ongoing decline of the farm’s increasingly desolate fields and barns as they become reclaimed by nature.
As Jack’s efforts to keep his internal rage, guilt and shame buried under Rand Farm, Jack skulks its acres alone. Turns to alcohol. Becomes prone to violent outbursts of temper.
But quiet, unassuming Sullivan, obsessed with Children’s book character Simon the Serpent, may just be the most dangerous Rand of them all, and Sullivan has his own stash of secrets in the farm cellar.
Secrets that he shares with Simon.
Secrets that bleed . . .
In his debut novel, LJ Denholm asks what drives man to commit his darkest acts; nature or nurture . . . Or a combination of the two?