Out, the sequel to John Smolens’s internationally acclaimed novel Cold, finds the former constable Del Maki recovering from surgery and haunted by the recent loss of his wife. His house, set deep in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, becomes a haven for refugees during a fierce blizzard. First his pregnant physical therapist’s car won’t start. Then her two lovers come for her—and after each other. After her current boyfriend saves an enigmatic Finnish woman from freezing to death in the storm, they are followed by her former boyfriend, a petty thief who is armed and seeks revenge. As the weather worsens, leading to a power outage, damage from a fallen tree, and a fire, tensions rise. Forced to abandon the house, their flight through the snowbound forest leads to a bad deal with a deadly result. John Smolens’s novel Cold was lauded for its “stunning brutality and uncommon tenderness.” In the sequel, Out, nature and human nature again collide, illuminating the difference between being rescued and being saved.
He lived out.
Connor Tyne couldn’t really think.
Barr heard a phone ringing
Barr managed to sit up.
About a half dozen miles out County
Del’s half-sleep receded,
Barr might have dozed off
Barr drove to Marcia’s apartment
Connor’s hands were a glazed red—
Marcia moved her legs
Essi would hum the verse,
After Marcia sat on the end of the couch,
Del never tired of watching logs
Marcia felt something was incomplete,
Barr listened to Marcia at the sink.
After Del flushed the toilet,
Marcia thought it was strange
Th e maple tree was at least
Del got on his hands and knees
When Barr aimed the revolver at him,
When Barr tapped the side
First, there was a cello, a solitary cello.
The truck belonged
About five miles down
There was just the one bathroom
“John Smolens’s fascination with and abiding love for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula girds this powerful narrative and brings these characters into astonishing, authentic being. His fiction deepens the meanings of place and people—where we come from, how we got here, who we are.”
—THOMAS LYNCH, poet, essayist, fictionist, undertaker