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Authors: Jeffrey Lent

Lost Nation

Praise for
Lost Nation:

“My real problem with Jeffrey Lent’s
Lost Nation
is figuring out whether it is a masterpiece or simply an American classic. This is an age of obtuse hyperbole but I don’t recall a recent novel more worthy of the traditional nine bows, a novel that more ruthlessly examines the nearly ancient roots of what we are today.”

—Jim Harrison

Lost Nation
] proves that [Lent’s] first success was no fluke…. A dark and bloody tale about the power of guilt, the tragedy of misapprehension, and the will to survive, it offers a powerful yet compassionate exploration into the human condition.”

Library Journal
(starred review)

“A memorable journey into [a] remarkable novel … The power of
Lost Nation
lies in the author’s unique use of language, in both the written and the spoken patois of early-nineteenth-century New England. Lent’s first novel,
In the Fall
, was named a
New York Times
Notable Book of 2000. This is his second and should garner equal praise…. Grade: A-.”

—William Dieter,
Rocky Mountain News

“[This] intensely charged … mesmerizing tale … [shows a] remarkable command of atmosphere and gift for flinty, stark characterizations. Blood is a magnificently dramatic figure, Lear-like in his stoical resolve and the fury that consumes him.”

Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“Lent writes muscular prose and builds complex characters who move through his plot in ways that deftly demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses…. Lent writes wonderful dialogue and descriptions.”

—Georgia Jones-Davis,
The Washington Post

“A true American idyll is revealed, albeit an idyll fueled by hard work, disappointment, perseverance and raw pig-headedness…. The dialogue of
Lost Nation
—clipped, contracted, no fuss—is alone worth the price of this book…. A modern American classic.”

—Chris Watson,
Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Lent’s subject is the American soul, Christian and savage at the same time, noble but also tragic, on the brink of civilization but prone to monstrousness.”

—David Skinner,
The Weekly Standard

“In Blood, we find a character deserving of both our pity and our cheers, something we recognize all too easily in ourselves … the story builds toward its explosive, and redemptive climax…. [
Lost Nation
] has given readers something they will both contemplate and enjoy. Good reading.”

—Glen Young,
Petoskey News-Review

“Lent writes with incredibly sensuous prose, bringing much of the backwood country to life…. Author of the acclaimed
In the Fall
, Lent captured with his
Lost Nation
the paramount sadness of man trying to run away from his past.”

—Gregg Mayer,
Jackson Clarion Ledger

“An engrossing and spirited tale of early American resilience.”

—R.C. Scott,
Washington DC Times

“Lent’s game is to craft sweeping historical novels that lay bare the romance of America’s early times. And nowhere is such a laying bare more bare than in his newest work,
Lost Nation
, a relentlessly dark, beautifully written book that’s at once savage and graceful … [its] language, style and preciseness of prose would be difficult for most of today’s best writers to match. This is a solid piece of work forged on an anvil of unrelenting scenes by grit and gift and hammered into the reader’s psyche. Characters like Blood and Sally don’t come along every day, and when they do, we’re glad to have met them.”

—Bill Brooks,
Mountain Xpress

“An atmospheric story that’s both disturbing and entertaining.”

—Anne Stephenson,
Arizona Republic

Lost Nation
shows that his talent has staying power. His carefully crafted but hardscrabble prose is like a rutted country road carving out its own literary territory…. A tale of sin, shame, death and redemption that’s as compelling as Cormac McCarthy’s
Blood Meridian
and as true as Pat Conroy’s
The Prince of Tides
… Just as the deeply hidden truths of Blood’s life contrast with the precision of his ledger-book entries, the author challenges our own paper record of the American frontier: What did it really require to be the last man—or woman—or culture, standing?”

—Martin Northway,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The New York Times
best-selling author and writer of
In the Fall
has written a majestic account of individualism and nationhood…. [Lent] writes with authentic realism, and some scenes are not for the faint hearted…. Though vivid, the realism is tempered by images of warmth and pure poetry…. Lent has written a unique American mosaic. This is a provocative work of fiction that will endure.”

—Marvin Minkler,
The North Star Monthly

“Jeffrey Lent’s formidable second novel is the kind of book that swallows its readers…. As he did with
In the Fall
, his impressive debut novel, Lent crafts this bleak tale with skill and audacity…. Part of Lent’s authorial power comes from his master of juxtapositions in plot and in prose….
Lost Nation
draws its real force from Lent’s subtle rendering of interiors (physical and emotional), details, and perspectives.”

—Kate Callen,
The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Lent’s follow-up to his acclaimed
In the Fall
is a strong book, and the author has tremendous literary gifts: a fine ear for speech, a keen eye for period detail, the ability to craft a well-turned phrase and create rich interior lives for his characters…. Rich language and obvious depth of thought.”

—Keir Graff,

“Grand, dramatic … an epic story of individual redemption and the innocence lost as a civilization strives to define itself.”

—Sarah Gianelli,
The Oregonian

“With his new novel,
Lost Nation
, Jeffrey Lent has proven that there are second acts in American literature. Following on the success of his first novel,
In the Fall
, Lent has produced a second book with the same sort of tragic power and dignity…. He is a writer of such breathtaking talent and honesty that one feels compelled to group him with the greats of American literature. But, finally, he stands alone, as all true writers do…. A novel of brutal originality. The whole book has a sort of power and heartbreaking truth to it, a quality of something long forgotten and now remembered with brilliant clarity.”

—Michael Pearson,

“This is not a book for timid readers—visceral violence is commonplace and graphic. But there’s a hard-won sweetness that peeks out occasionally in this thoroughly unsentimental account.”

—Andrew Engelson,
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“While the classic western naturally concentrates on the West, there were pockets in the East that were as wild as Dodge City, and Lent has found one in his second novel…. A rousing tale that will surely please the readers of his first, bestselling novel,
In the Fall

Publishers Weekly

Lost Nation
is a unique novel about borders, about memory, about imagination, about the age-old dream of becoming a better man by moving to a different place. Jeffrey Lent’s genius is that he recognizes that wherever we are now is wherever we have been, that we will always in some sense be both rooted and uprooted. Beautifully written, intricately paced, dark, fierce and often funny,
Lost Nation
is part love story, part parable, and part east-coast western. With his second novel Lent has already created his own undisputed territory in American literature.”

—Colum McCann



In the Fall


Jeffrey Lent

Copyright © 2002 by Jeffrey Lent
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. Any members of educational institutions wishing to photocopy part or all of the work for classroom use, or publishers who would like to obtain permission to include the work in an anthology, should send their inquiries to Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
Published simultaneously in Canada
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publications Data
   Lent, Jeffrey.
      Lost Nation / by Jeffrey Lent.
         p. cm.
      eBook ISBN-13: 978-1-5558-4677-0
         1. Men—New Hampshire—Fiction. 2. Marginality, Social—Fiction. 3. Wilderness areas—Fiction. 4. Teenage girls—Fiction. 5. New Hampshire—Fiction. I. Title.
      PS3562.E4934 L46 2002
      813′.54—dc21                                                                  2001056495
Grove Press
841 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

for Elisabeth Schmitz


The Year of Our Lord Eighteen Hundred & Thirty-Eight


They went on. The man Blood in hobnailed boots and rotting leather breeches and a stinking linen blouse, lank and greasegrimed hair tied at his nape with a thin leather binding cut from a cowhide, goad in hand, staggering at the canted shoulder of the near ox, the girl behind barefoot in a rough shift of the same linen as Blood’s shirt, her fancy skirt and bodice in a tight roll jammed down in the back of the cart atop her button-hook boots furred now with green slime, the girl’s hair no cleaner than Blood’s but untied and tangled, redblonde, her face swollen from the insect delirium that her free hand swiped against, an unceasing ineffectual bat about her head. Her other wrist cinched by a length of the same stripped cowhide tethering her to the rear of the lurching groaning cart. The huge dog trotting on the off side, directly opposite Blood.

The cart was loaded with twin hogsheads of black Barbados rum, smaller casks of powder sealed against moisture with beeswax, pigs of lead, axeheads, a small brass-strapped eight-pound swivel gun without carriage and bolts of plum and violet cloth—this last acquired through
whimsy; the bolts were stolen and unwanted and so pressed upon Blood by their most recent possessor and Blood, who knew no thing was free, could not resist the frivolous drygoods. Thinking they might even prove useful in some as yet unseen way. Blood believed there was no happenstance, that all things served a purpose if a man only knew how to look for it. Otherwise, there was nothing but careful forethought in the contents of the cart, right down to the last ounce-weight of pigged lead to powder. So he added papers of pins and ones of needles. And a sack of pewter thimbles. Blood made no mistakes. He’d long since used up his share.

Thus he chose to go up the east side of the mountains instead of following the easier water route of the Connecticut River to the west. Once north of Fryeburg and the Conway intervale there were few people and fewer settlements, and those that were, were less inclined to interfere with questions of any nature. They had paused some days outside of Conway, camping in the woods, not availing themselves of the tavern in the village but allowing word of their presence to seep around the rough bitter populace; here he sold her service to what few men had hard coin which were not many and he was not interested in barter, not yet wanting to accumulate a thing beyond what he already had. Disgusted at the paucity of the place he pushed on, knowing the worst lay ahead. That fact alone delighted him, now faced with the worst, he had the opportunity to wrest himself from it. There was no other possibility. His delight was grim.

For some weeks they had outraced spring even at ox pace but the weather turned and softened as they halted in Conway and so they traveled then with less speed and comfort even as they climbed into the mountains toward the notch and the land beyond, their destination that vast lost land north of the mountains that might have been American or Canadian but of which no men knew or if they did none it seemed cared. The corduroy road, ill-made anyway now began to fall apart and disappear into the frost-ooze, the dank black mud that sucked at the cart wheels so they screeched in their hubs and there was often no way to know what was road and what bog or beaver marsh or simply muddy meadow surrounded by long-dead drowned trees. Their tree-corpses silver and white in the spring light; shorn of their smaller limbs they seemed to Blood to be giants of longlost men, struck mute and
helpless where they mired. And then they would pass out of the muck and back into spruce and hemlock forest or hardwood and the road would be there; often not more than a crushed track pressed through the woods lining. And where the mud had not yet broken through the frost there were boulderbacks with faint scars, the sign of some other, earlier, passage. Reassuring to other men perhaps but for Blood nothing but reminder for vigilance.

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