"Outer Dark" by Cormac McCarthy (1968)
"When he did come he looked like a man who has a long way to go. He had the supplies in a sack over his shoulder and he went by slowly with his eyes to the ground. She crouched low while he passed and when he was gone she rose and dusted off her dress and took up her bundle and returned to the road again, walking out his tracks to the crossroads and the store."
"Outer Dark" is Cormac McCarthy's second novel, written long before the books that would truly establish his reputation. He was 35 years old when it was first published, and it wasn't until the early 90s - when McCarthy was in his sixties - that his Border Trilogy cemented his status as one of America's greatest living writers.
Which might lead one to assume that "Outer Dark" is a work less mature than more recent, celebrated novels. Such an assumption, however, misses the mark. "Outer Dark" is no less developed than later novels such as "The Crossing," "The Road," and "No Country for Old Men," and it displays all of the strengths which later made McCarthy famous.
The novel follows the wanderings of a brother and sister after the birth of their child. The father, perhaps shamed by the parentage of his new infant, leaves the child in the forest, where it is discovered by an itinerant merchant. After she recovers from a difficult labor, the mother goes in search of the child, with her brother only a few steps behind her.
Like other McCarthy novels, this book showcases McCarthy's penchant for wordplay and dark themes. To say that the ending of the novel is shocking is something of an understatement, and in terms of violence, this might just be the bloodiest novel that McCarthy has ever written. If the ending of the Border Trilogy sat with you, you really ought to read "Outer Dark."
This is an excellent book, and I would recommend it without reservation.