Darkansas by Jarret Middleton

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Middleton, Jarret. Darkansas. Dzanc. Aug. 2018. 216p. ISBN 9781945814297. $26.95. F

In this urgently written, dark-lit novel from Pharos editor Middleton, country musician Jordan has been living raggedly on the road, avoiding his family while trying to live up to the reputation of his famed bluegrass musician father, Walker Bayne. When he finally returns home to Arkansas for the wedding of his twin brother, Malcolm, the family both embraces him and castigates him for his long absence. Jordan’s the black sheep, trying to explain to his brother at an out-of-control bachelor party that there’s something dark calling him, something much worse than drink. Indeed, as he starts looking at the mementoes from his father’s career, he realizes that his father and his long-lost uncle Jake were actually twins, and as he investigates the family history, he discovers a singular curse: every generation of Bayne men from the Civil War has included twins, and one twin always ends up killing his father. That touch of magic realism might interest some readers, but it really isn’t necessary; Middleton’s atmospheric work, set in a world little visited, captures both individual and family struggle in sharp-edged if occasionally messy language as it investigates how we constantly come up against fate. ­

VERDICT: Appealing reading, not just for the country music and rural crowd.