As a teenage girl, Ginny marries Linus Lancaster, her mother’s second cousin, and moves to his Kentucky pig farm “ninety miles from nowhere.” In the shadows of the lush Kentucky landscape, Ginny discovers the empty promises of Lancaster’s “paradise”—a place where the charms of her husband fall away to reveal a troubled man and cruel slave owner. Ginny befriends the young slaves Cleome and Zinnia who work at the farm—until Lancaster’s attentions turn to them, and she finds herself torn between her husband and only companions. The events that follow Lancaster’s death change all three women for life.
Haunting, chilling, and suspenseful, Kind One is a powerful tale of redemption and human endurance in antebellum America.
See an “imagistic interview” with Laird here.
“Opening with a prologue in the form of an extraordinarily beautiful meditation on loss, Hunt’s writing deepens into allegory, symbolism and metaphor, all while spinning forth a dark tale of abuse, incest and corruption reminiscent of Faulkner . . . Profoundly imaginative, strikingly original, deeply moving.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This compact but reverberant 19th-century tale tracks a circle of hard-luck souls whose collective tears could fill a dry well. . . . Hunt passes the narration among the principle characters in woozily nonlinear fashion, lending a range of textures to this antebellum melodrama.” —New York Times Book Review, “Fiction Chronicle”
“Laird Hunt’s fiction lends an ominous tint to the familiar . . . [his] penchant for the ambiguous, the divergent, and the unsettling can flourish when rooted in American history.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“[A]n unforgettable tale of the savagery of antebellum America . . . Hunt deftly maintains an unsettling tone and a compelling narrative that will linger with readers long after the last page.” —Publishers Weekly
“In Laird Hunt’s Kind One, he provocatively examines the complicity or white women in the shame of slavery. . . . The novel reveals how slavery was so pernicious as to make criminals of everyone who owned slaves, and how redemption is rarely a neatly contained process.”—Refinery 29
“There is always a surprise in the voice and in the heart of Laird Hunt’s stories—with its echoes of habit caught in a timeless dialect, so we see the world he gives us as if new. ‘You hear something like that and it walks out the door with you.’” —Michael Ondaatje
“[I]t is as devastating a piece of writing as anything one is likely to find in contemporary literature.”—Contemporary Review of Fiction
“In Laird Hunt’s provocative new novel Kind One . . . [Hunt] managed to create a novel that upends what we expect from slavery narratives.” —Bookforum
“Laird Hunt’s Kind One is a mesmerizing novel of sin and expiation that plumbs the depths of human depravity and despair, yet hints at the possibility of redemption . . . [O]ne that will resonate long after you turn its last page.” —Star Tribune
“The voices that gradually reveal the story—of the naive girl who collaborates with her brutal husband—are by turn lyrical and savage, piecing together a nuanced exploration of guilt and forgiveness.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “A Year in Reading: The best of the South in 2012″
“As I read the book, I found myself frequently having to pause after passages—some gruesome, some hinting at gruesomeness—to catch my breath . . . Hunt’s lovely prose shines a light into some very dark places.” —The Cedar Rapids Gazette
“Kind One is a major achievement for Hunt . . . in its study of the perpetuation of violence, it calls to mind Faulkner’s structures by way of Albert Camus and the dark dreamscapes of Jean Cocteau.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Hunt is being recognized for his 2012 novel Kind One, a rich, piercing novel that follows the profoundly complex and difficult life of young slaves in antebellum Kentucky.” —Denver Post
“[Kind One is] Laird Hunt’s haunting meditation on the crushing legacy of slavery in the American South. . . . Yet the book’s small acts of kindness and mercy—bright beacons in the night—never go out, shining their faint light on the endurance of the human spirit.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Laird Hunt’s Kind One provides readers with a view of a 19th-century dysfunctional family — and it makes anything you see on reality TV look tame.” —South Bend Tribune
“Hunt has an ear for dialect, and the story itself reads like Faulkner mixed with Raymond Carver, while remaining recognizably Hunt’s own. The reckonings that Hunt’s characters face, as they do in so many of his novels, will reverberate in the reader’s memory long after Kind One.” —Shelf Awareness
“Kind One is an inventive and purposefully complicated novel, a novel that twists and dives in and out of and through time and the lives of these men and women, a novel that is both a ghostly tribute to and an indemnification of what went before. Laird Hunt has written a masterpiece of haunt, a balanced and jarring book that takes all we know of the south, down to its most innocent elements, down even to the daisies of the fields, and creates their scarred histories anew.” —The Rumpus
“An investigation into a dark corner of history, a narrative that splinters and echoes, a structure at once fabular and recursive: all lead us into Laird Hunt’s novel Kind One. Hunt’s exploration of slavery in the U.S. . . . involves inevitable deconstructions of identity and power, revealing the ways in which each engenders the other in a construction we call history.” —Quarterly West
“In taut, hypnotic chapters that loop forward and back in time, Hunt interweaves dreams, African folktales and elements of Shakespeare to deliver half-seen glimpses of the past, narrated by Ginny and several characters whose lives have intersected in the past.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fall Books Round-up
“[W]hat puts Kind One firmly in the category of good Southern writing . . . is its quietly gripping language. Hunt is a writer who, to steal a phrase from Allan Gurganus, is ‘still loyal at the level of the sentence.’ ” —Oxford American
“‘It is risky,’ Hunt says, ‘A white man, writing the story of a white woman, embroiled in the world of slavery.’ It is perhaps for just that reason that the Boulder author’s latest is worth picking up.” —5280, The Denver Magazine
“Laird Hunt’s novel Kind One is as powerful and dark a novel I have read all year, a book as exquisitely written as it is haunting.” —Largehearted Boy
“I read Kind One for the first time last November, and when I finished, I was sure of three things: it was a book to read again and again, Hunt was a name I’d scan for in bookstores, and Kind One could be the basis of a fine film.” —The Quarterly Conversation
“The menace never lets up in this page-turner of a literary novel. . . . I read this book in one sitting, and was left feeling as though I had been swept under in the river of this country’s racial history. It has the feel of a classic—something that will be read in history or English classes for years to come, a book that inspires interpretation and reflection. Recommended.” —Historical Novel Society
“[A] study in the perpetuation of violence, the lasting impact of abuse, the damage subjugation can inflict on the individual and society, the potential for redemption through forgiveness.” —ForeWord
“Hunt has written an extraordinary work. Kind One plumbs the dark depths and shimmering reaches of spirit through a tapestry of voices with such subtle power that you won’t realize how deeply this novel has gotten inside you until it’s too late. It will haunt you for the rest of your life.” —Mixer Publishing
“This is a story of reckoning and redemption and Kind One is told so artfully and so uniquely that the novel is well worth the read.” —The Rumpus, Roxanne Gay’s Reading Roundup
“I had an intense emotional response to this novel . . . [M]y attention was enchanted by Hunt’s image-rich language.” —TriQuarterly
“Hunt’s skill as a storyteller is staggering. . . . His is some of the most haunting and versatile American work being written today.” —Something on Paper
“[Kind One] soars because of Hunt’s intensely human characters which are displayed with complex compassion. The hands which are heavy may change over time, as may the victims, but pain and guilt, and, more precisely, the residual effects of pain and guilt, do not.” —The Small Press Book Review
“[Kind One is] minimal, immersive, and utterly compelling. Hunt never lets the reader get distracted or lets the intensity become diffused. For the real subject here is violence – violence that manifests itself as a Lear-like rage against Life itself.” —Vertigo
“[I]n Hunt’s detailed characters and prose (so beautiful as to seem otherworldly), the many folds of human relationships unravel, turn back on themselves, make new shapes, and tell of the bonds, tainted or not, all travelers eventually form while on their ways.” —Books Matter
“Laird Hunt’s Kind One, about two slave girls who take their white mistress into captivity, is a profound meditation on the sexual and racial subconscious of America. Nothing is sacred here. Savagery begets savagery. Women commit unspeakable violence, wives are complicit in their husband’s crimes, slave girls learn to be as cold and brutal as the masters who have raped and whipped them. Of course the center cannot hold. We watch it crumble with breath held, skin tingling, in this gorgeous and terrifying novel.” —Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia
“[Kind One] contains the sort of story that needs to be experienced directly . . .you should get a hold of a copy and read it for yourself as soon as you can.” —Andrew Wille
“If you like beautiful sentences, you’ll probably enjoy Kind One.” —The Stranger
Featured in Colorlines’ “Summer Reads! 3 Musts From an Indie Bookseller”
Rain Taxi Review of Books, video interview with Hunt
Once I lived in a place where demons dwelled. I was one of them. I am old and I was young then, but truth is this was not so long ago, time just took the shackle it had on me and gave it a twist. I live in Indiana now, if you can call these days I spend in this house living. I might as well be hobbled. A thing that lurches across the earth. One bright morning of the world I was in Kentucky. I remember it all. The citizens of the ring of hell I have already planted my flag in do not forget.
Charlotte County. Ninety miles from nowhere. It was 400 acres, varied as to elevation, with good drainage to a slow-running creek. There was a deep well, fine pasture for the horses. Much of the land never went under cultivation and there were always frogs and owls for the night and foxes to trot bloody-jawed through the dawn. Birds must have liked its airs because the airs were full of them. A firearm went off independently and we had half a flock for supper. In season, we had fresh corn and beans and tomatoes and squash. There was a boy who kept it all in shape. Two more looked to the pigs. The girls cooked and kept house and kept me.
It was a pretty country. Greens were greens. There was snow for Christmas and holly bushes to make sure it looked white. Breezes and flowers for the summer. Trees in autumn time stuffed with red and yellow leaves. Bulbs to crack open the earth when it came up on spring. It has been my whole excuse for a life since I held my breath and pointed my back at that place, but my mind has never learned to hold what transpired there against it. The land is the land and the land washes itself clean. I had a father who had been through battles who told me that.
Still, even if they are all gone, even if they are all scattered or dead, I would not want to come over the rise and across the stone bridge and arrive there again. No, I would not want that.