Kevin Canty, who has visited Square Books on several occasions and is one of the writers Larry Brown most admired, has published his first novel in many years. The Underworld takes its name literally, from the true story of a fire in a silver mining town whose survivors all were connected in some way to those who perished, a story of the necessity for love in a devastated community, the sort of story that few writers can penetrate and bring to life the way that Canty can.— From Richard's 2017 Picks
For readers of Russell Banks and Richard Ford, a novel about loss, love, and redemption following a catastrophe in a small mining town.
In The Underworld, Kevin Canty tells a story inspired by the facts of a disastrous fire that took place in an isolated silver mining town in Idaho in the 1970s, in which almost everyone in town lost a friend, a lover, a brother, or a husband. The Underworld imagines the fates of a handful of fictional survivors and their loved ones—Jordan, a young widow with twin children; David, a college student trying to make a life for himself in another town; Lionel, a lifelong hard-rock miner—as they struggle to come to terms with the loss. It’s a tough, hard-working, hard-drinking town, a town of whores and priests and bar fights, but nobody’s tough enough to get through this undamaged. A powerful and unforgettable tale about small-town lives and the healing power of love in the midst of suffering.
About the Author
Kevin Canty is the author of four novels and three short story collections and has been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, and the New York Times Magazine. He currently teaches at the University of Montana in Missoula.
An excellent and terse account of a devastating mine fire in Idaho in 1972…taut stretches of introspection and screenplay-ready dialogue [reveal] characters acting against their own best interests…Canty honors labor and thoughtfully challenges the commitment the townspeople make to the thing that is so clearly ruining them.
If you haven't spent an evening or two in the grand company of Kevin Canty's work, now is your time to start…Canty's chosen genre is fiction, but he peddles truth.
Canty’s real genius lies in his subtly drawn depiction of the emotional and psychological landscape of this 'big incomprehensible thing.'
Canty’s care with prose recalls Raymond Carver, and his empathy for the common man extends a bloodline that reaches back to the likes of John Steinbeck and William Saroyan…Canty has a gift for turning the commonplace into the extraordinary by asking the right questions and allowing the truth to unfold.
[P]olished, deeply empathetic…Canty’s controlled, spare prose provides an ideal vehicle for excavating these emotional depths…His sculpted, lapidarian cadence deftly navigates the terrain separating numbness and pain…to illuminate the fragility and preciousness of life.
Canty offers a masterly story of heartbreak and struggle against fate and bad luck while heroic themes of love and forgiveness carry this memorable novel.
Drawing on a true disaster, this brittle, compassionate story tells of a mine fire that devastates a small Idaho town…Canty has a keen eye for details in this setting and suitably dry, spare prose…[The Underworld] show[s] how disaster can lacerate a place or people without utterly destroying hope.
A dead-honest encounter with the hearts and minds of working-class America, The Underworld stands there beside Island by Alistair Macleod and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin and damned near anything you might think of by Raymond Carver.
— William Kittredge
[Canty] is one of my favorite contemporary writers because of his amazing gift for character and image…The Underworld is among his best work. Brutal and delicate, hilarious and totally heartbreaking. Like Charon, Canty makes a great ferryman into uncharted territory.
— Dan Chaon
The Underworld pierces with busted hearts, broken families, and the gristly days of work and drink that bind them. A lovely, melodic, and unsparing look at small-town life in the West.
— Deborah Reed