For fans of Daniel Woodrell and David Joy comes Ian Pisarcik's haunting debut novel exploring the fraught nature of families and the inescapable secrets that are out to cripple them.
On the outskirts of a town too tired for its own happenings, the boys were found dead inside a tent.
Three years later, their fathers have disappeared.
Ruth Fenn's son was the boy they blamed. For three years, Ruth has accepted her lot as pariah, focusing on her ailing mother and the children left in her care by the struggling single parents of North Falls, Vermont. But now the additional loss of her husband is too much to bear, and she has no choice but to overcome the darkness or be consumed by it. But as she edges closer to the truth, she begins to uncover some secrets that are better left buried.
That's when she meets Milk Raymond, a war vet who comes home to find his nine-year-old son abandoned by his mother. Unable to find work, with no idea how to be a father, Milk turns to Ruth for help. But as the mystery of Ruth's missing husband deepens, the fragile stability Milk has created for Daniel is shattered by the ill-fated return of Daniel's mother, who will stop at nothing to get her boy back.
As these unsettled and interconnected lives hurtle towards a devastating conclusion, both Ruth and Milk are about to learn that their dying Vermont town has more secrets than they ever thought possible—and there are those who will do anything to protect them.
Praise for Before Familiar Woods
Top 10 debut novels of 2020, Apple Books
“Dripping with heart and grit and tears . . . an electrifying debut from Ian Pisarcik. Rarely are thrillers this elegantly told and seldom full of such beauty. Like all the best tales, this compelling story feels like it has been sitting in the dark for centuries waiting patiently to be told by someone with Pisarcik’s immense talent and empathy. I will be first in line for anything he writes after this.”
-Christopher J. Yates, author of Grist Mill Road
“Poignant and searingly authentic, Pisarcik’s mesmerizing, heartfelt debut pulls you in and doesn’t let go—a haunting testament to survival of family and community in a poor and desperate landscape.”
-Kim Michele Richardson, author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
“Delivers its people and its landscape in the same striking ways - taking us through peaks and valleys, shadows and sunlight, beauty and brutality, in a well wrought delivery of emotion and place.”
-Michael Farris Smith, author of The Fighter
"Pisarcik wields a poet's eye, stacking images for a novel that turns like the pages of a photo album. Before Familiar Woods is ripe with unforgettable characters. This is a debut to savor."
-David Joy, author of The Line That Held Us
“Ian Pisarcik has written the best kind of thriller: gritty, dark, and tragically human. Intriguing mysteries keep the pages turning, but it is this novel’s people—roughhewn, fractured, grasping for family—who linger long after the covers close.”
-John Larison, author of Whiskey When We’re Dry
"Outstanding . . . Pisarcik is a writer to watch."
Hemingway-haunted . . . Beautifully done and will certainly strike a chord with readers who appreciate the similar styles of Daniel Woodrell and David Joy."
"Searing…This carefully crafted novel reminded us of Dennis Lehane’s gritty Boston mysteries, but with a small-town intimacy that delivers even more of an emotional punch."
"A richly detailed, atmospheric story . . . Before Familiar Woods will elicit sympathy for lives misunderstood and opportunities wasted. It will appeal to those who relish books by Ron Rash, Tom Franklin, and Wiley Cash."