Cover image for From the Black Hills
From the Black Hills
Troy, Judy, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [1999]

Physical Description:
283 pages ; 22 cm
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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A decent, ordinary life jeopardized by a catastrophically extraordinary event: this is the story, mythic in its outline and substance, that Judy Troy--author of two New York Times Notable Books and Whiting award winner--tells inFrom the Black Hills.        In Wheatley, South Dakota, during the summer before Mike Newlin is to begin college, his father, an insurance salesman, shoots and kills the young woman who works for him as his receptionist. He disappears, and Mike is left behind in shock and grief. With his future suddenly obscured, Mike finds himself nearly overwhelmed by his present circumstances--not only the emotional damage inflicted by his father's awful crime but also his mother's dismay, the insinuating methods of a criminal investigator named Tom DeWitt, his girlfriend's anxieties, and his longing for an older woman who lives nearby--and the question of whether he will ever see his father again and what will happen if he does.      As imposing as the landscape that forms its setting,From the Black Hillsconveys with compassionate power the drama of a young man who must try to overcome his father's dark legacy.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

It is the summer after high-school graduation and Mike Newlin is an average 18-year-old with a girlfriend, plans for college, and a summer job working on a farm. When his father disappears after killing his secretary, Mike's carefree life gradually spins out of control. No longer feeling he can make plans for the future, he struggles to get through each day, trying to help his mother start over again without a husband, ease his girlfriend's endless anxiety and worry, fend off the federal investigator who believes Mike knows more than he is letting on, and come to terms with what his father has done. As Mike begins a new life at college, his father makes contact, and Mike is forced to make a choice--either help his father or turn him in. With the desolate and unforgiving Black Hills of South Dakota as a backdrop, Troy tells a simple yet poignant story of ordinary people striving to overcome emotional and physical abandonment. --Carolyn Kubisz

Publisher's Weekly Review

Narrowing her canvas from the mix of sassy, lovelorn protagonists in the praised West of Venus, but deepening her character portrayal and atmospheric mood, Troy has written a restrained but powerful coming-of-age story distinguished by a remarkable empathy for ordinary people caught in the crosshairs of tragedy. During the hot summer before Mike Newlin is to leave for college, his father, Glenn, a depressed social misfit and inadequate parent, kills his receptionist/lover and flees their small town of Wheatley, N.D. As she sensitively explores Mike's reaction to the event, Troy captures both the particular alienation of adolescence and Mike's own growing acknowledgment that he has inherited his father's defensive, untrusting, secretive personality. His feelings about his father's transgressive behavior are clouded by his own lust for Lee-Ann Schofield, the wife of the farm owner where he does chores, and his guilt in betraying his tender, vulnerable girlfriend, Donetta Rush. As his father's disappearance extends into the fall, Mike begins his freshman year at the university and falls into a classic depression. Troy plumbs Mike's emotional turmoil so deftly that the pace of this meditative novel never flags. Then she delivers another shock that adds adrenaline to the suspense of Glenn's eventual reappearance. By the time Mike sadly realizes that he must establish his own moral center, Troy has etched a memorable portrait of a family in crisis, a small town's reaction, and the classic human need for understanding and connection. Her main achievement, however, is to inhabit Mike so completely that his character flaws and emotional volatility are rendered with keen compassion. Moreover, each one of the supporting charactersÄfrom the conflicted Lee-Ann, who understands Mike all too well, to the poignantly openhearted Donetta, to Mike's bravely repressed mother, to the lonely detective who leads the search for Glenn, to a feral little woman who surfaces as Glenn's companionÄis drawn with a tolerance for human frailty. Like the Black Hills that represent the comfort of home to Mike, the novel encircles the reader in a believable world. Author tour. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Troy (West of Venus, LJ 5/1/97) presents a sensitive coming-of-age story. Mike Newlin has just graduated from high school in Wheatley, SD. He's spending the summer before college on the other side of the state hanging out with his girlfriend, working on a neighboring ranch, and lusting after his employer's wife. As if that isn't enough for a young man facing enormous change, life throws him a real curve: his father kills the receptionist at his insurance agency and vanishes. Mike's last "carefree summer" becomes one of re-evaluationÄof himself, his family, and his place in his community. Highly recommended for fiction collections.ÄDebbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-In this coming-of-age tale, a young man's ordinary life is jeopardized by a catastrophic event. During the summer before Mike Newlin is to begin college, his father, an insurance salesman, shoots and kills his receptionist and disappears. Mike is left to deal with his mother's distress, a clinging girlfriend, his yearnings for an older woman, a detective who insinuates himself into the family, and questions about his father. When the officer investigating the murder is convinced Mike's father will contact him after he arrives at college, the young man's stress intensifies. This well-paced story explores the teen's emotions as he gradually learns of his father's infidelities and flight through the western U.S. Young adults will be caught up in Troy's well-drawn characters as the protagonist navigates the minefield of relationships turned upside down because of a random event. Especially poignant are the scenes with his mother, his adoring girlfriend who, at first, he doesn't fully appreciate, and his infatuation with a 30-year-old married woman whom he comes to realize can never be more than a friend. Mike learns that the strings that connect families are not unbreakable and that the most valuable relationships are often those found elsewhere. Young adults will respect that hard-earned knowledge.-Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One In the spring of Mike's senior year, months before graduation, he was working long hours at Neil Schofield's cattle ranch. He was bored with school, and Josh Mitchell, his closest friend, had moved to Wyoming in February, with his father, after his parents' divorce. Josh's mother was with somebody else now.     Mike had worked at the Schofield ranch every summer since he was fourteen, and this year, in March, he began working mornings before school, getting up in the dark and riding his motorcycle--bought despite his parents' objections--out on Route 8 through the cold dawn. On those days he ate breakfast with the Schofields--with Neil, his wife, Lee-Ann, and their two-year-old daughter, Janna. Often Neil's brother, Ed, who lived in Buffalo Gap, would be there, too, having driven over in his old Corvette. He was an artist; he made pottery that he sold in Rapid City. Two other men, Arthur Strong and Louis Ivy, showed up after breakfast. They looked older than they were, and neither of them could read very well. If they got there early, they waited outside, next to their pickups.     "I can make you breakfast here," Mike's mother had offered. "I'm up early anyway." She taught high school biology and did her class preparations in the mornings before school.     "I don't mind eating with the Schofields," Mike had told her, not saying that he preferred it to being home. The previous summer, when Mike had left home for the ranch before sunrise and not come back before nine at night, he'd said that he liked being alone on the tractor, listening to his father's old rock-and-roll tapes on his Walkman. He'd kept quiet about Neil Schofield, whose first two strikes against him, according to Mike's father, were that he was rich and hadn't had to work for it. Neil's wealthy father had bought the ranch for his retirement. Now he lived in California, and Neil ran the ranch for real, sort of. He could hire as many people as he needed and could afford having bad luck. "Money just doesn't mean that much to me," he'd told Mike.     "Let's see," Mike had said once. "If I work half an hour longer, I can afford to buy Donetta popcorn tonight at the movies." Neil had given him an extra twenty dollars with that week's pay. "I'm bullshitting you," Mike had had to explain.     Neil was fifteen years younger than Mike's father. He was tall, light-haired, and energetic, and in good shape from his work on the ranch. Mike's father, Glenn, was of average height, thin, and dark-haired, and had never been particularly happy. What Mike told himself most often was that his father had gotten lost trying to find what other people already had. Glenn didn't have the key, somehow. Mike felt that his father was always trying to figure out how he'd come into being, and how Mike had come into being, what point there was to it and how you were supposed to get through your life. Once, late one night, when Mike's mother was away, Mike had heard his father cry for almost an hour. In the morning neither of them had mentioned it. His father had never hit Mike--or anyone else, as far as Mike knew--but he got his feelings hurt too easily. And when he got angry it turned into a dark mood that lasted a long time, often weeks. "Mr. Gloom," Mike would refer to him as then, but only to himself. It would be too disloyal to use this kind of nickname, even with Josh and Donetta. Anyway, his father wasn't always like that.     Something else Mike kept quiet about with everyone were his feelings for Lee-Ann Schofield. When he first knew her, when he was fourteen, she had teased him about some things he'd mentioned to Neil, such as getting into trouble with Josh, drunk at the bowling alley, or sneaking out at three in the morning to throw eggs at somebody's window. But over the years she'd teased him less and talked to him more. She was thirteen years older than he was, thirty the year he turned seventeen. Mike was tall by then--not as tall as Neil but taller than his father, and muscular from high school wrestling and working on the ranch. He'd let his dark hair grow as long as he could before his coach objected. He looked more like his mother's side of the family: green eyes, a long face, high cheekbones.     Lee-Ann had small, pretty features. Her brown hair was unevenly cut--collar-length in back, shorter around her face. In the sunlight, Mike noticed, her hair had shades of gold and red. She wore loose clothes and no makeup and seemed to have a private way she felt about herself that was different from what other people thought they knew about her. That was what Mike liked about her. She was secretive, the way he was.     On an October morning of Mike's senior year, he went into the Schofields' house for a Coke just as Lee-Ann was coming into the kitchen after a shower. In the half second before she belted her thin robe, he saw her breasts, her stomach--a fleshiness that the girls he knew didn't have; they dieted and ran and lifted weights. Even Lee-Ann's face was softer, and seemed capable of gentler expressions. After that day, with her wet face and hair, her open robe, and the way she'd looked at him when she saw him looking at her, Mike became more sexual around her. He didn't think about the age difference anymore and hardly thought of her as married. In his mind he separated her from Neil and from his friendship with Neil.     By the time winter came, the moment he saw her was the moment he came to count on most, though he couldn't have said for what, or why. Because, as his advanced-placement English teacher would have said--she was always making them read stories about people who weren't lucky--his life was a lucky one: a nice-enough house, responsible parents, the ability to get good grades. And even that left out something: Donetta having sex with him on weekend nights at Crow Lake. Yet Mike couldn't change the way he felt about Lee-Ann Schofield; it was a fact, to him, rather than something he might question.     Instead, he fantasized about her all winter and spring. She was on his mind as he sat in class, watching snow fall on the field outside the window; as he rode his motorcycle too fast on the first warm days when the trees were budding; as he had sex with Donetta in the backseat of his mother's car. And at night in his house--his mother up late, grading papers in the dining room, his father in front of the television in the den--he lay in bed in the dark and masturbated, imagining that moment in the kitchen with Lee-Ann and picturing her robe coming off. His goal became to masturbate one day in her empty house--the emptiness sexual to him, somehow, as if his own body could fill all that space.     He didn't have the nerve or opportunity to do it until an afternoon in late May, when Lee-Ann and Janna were in town and Neil had driven over to Ed's house in Buffalo Gap. Mike had walked through the house, noticing two things he'd never noticed before: a photograph of Lee-Ann breast-feeding her daughter, and a white plaster cast of Lee-Ann's hand when she was a child, her name etched into it underneath. He walked upstairs to the bedroom she shared with Neil, with its white curtains and pale carpet. But a pair of Neil's boots were next to a chair in the corner, so Mike settled for the upstairs hallway, in sight of Lee-Ann's robe in the bathroom and the blue comforter on her bed. He leaned against the wall and unzipped his jeans, and afterward, using toilet paper to clean himself up, his legs were shaking. He wanted to do it again, almost immediately. But the house was reassuming its identity, which didn't include him. He felt like an intruder then. He went home that night without coming up to the house to say good-bye the way he usually did, and he didn't come for breakfast the next morning.     On Saturday Lee-Ann came into the barn to find him. "Are you mad at me? Did I do something I don't remember?"     "No," he told her. "It's me. I've been busy with school."     "I miss you," she said, in the sweet voice he'd heard her use only with Neil and Janna; it made tears come to his eyes. "It's all right," Lee-Ann said gently, and they put their arms around each other for the first time. She held him so closely that he had to pull back in order to kiss her. But she stepped away then, and walked out of the barn. He didn't see her again until that evening, as he was leaving. She was watching him from the front yard.     After that were days at the ranch Mike had to miss because of finals, graduation, and then, on June 18--a hot, bright Thursday afternoon--because of what his father did. Copyright © 1999 Judy Troy. All rights reserved.