When Rudd, a troubled teenager, embarks on a school project, he runs across a series of articles from the 1902 New York Times chronicling a vicious murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young. Delving deeply into the Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice used in the murders, Rudd, along with his newly discovered half-brother, Lael, becomes swept up in the psychological and atavistic effects of this violent, antique ritual.

As the past and the present become an increasingly ...

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The Open Curtain

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When Rudd, a troubled teenager, embarks on a school project, he runs across a series of articles from the 1902 New York Times chronicling a vicious murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young. Delving deeply into the Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice used in the murders, Rudd, along with his newly discovered half-brother, Lael, becomes swept up in the psychological and atavistic effects of this violent, antique ritual.

As the past and the present become an increasingly tangled knot, Rudd is found at the scene of a multiple murder at a remote campsite with minor injuries and few memories. Lyndi, the daughter of the victims, tries to help Rudd recover his memory and, together, they find a strength unique to survivors of terrible tragedies. But Rudd, desperate to protect Lyndi and unable to let the past be still, tries to manipulate their Mormon wedding ceremony to trick the priests (and God) by giving himself and Lyndi new secret names—names that match the killer and the victim in the one hundred-year-old murder. The nightmare has just begun . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Rosemary Herbert
Obsessed with both discoveries, Rudd finds himself on the road to committing murder himself. In doing so, he suffers injuries, and these lead to his being considered one of the victims. Rudd plays along, and as the action progresses, Evenson compellingly spells out what it means to be a truly lost soul.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Evenson (Altmann's Tongue) explores some controversial Mormon history in this thoughtful thriller rooted in an actual century-old murder case. When Rudd, a disaffected, fatherless Mormon teenager living in an unspecified part of Utah, discovers he has a half-brother, Lael, in suburban Provo, the two meet and embark on a strange friendship. While researching a school project, Rudd learns from a series of stories in the New York Times about a murder committed by William Hooper Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, the Mormon pioneer. In 1902, William Young was tried for, and convicted of, the murder of Anna Pulitzer. The crime cast a dark shadow on the Church of the Latter-Day Saints by exposing such arcane, perhaps doctrinal concepts as "blood atonement," a disturbing idea about the saving of a Mormon soul by shedding someone else's blood. This macabre backstory, coupled with Rudd's increasingly fractured mental state, results in a contemporary gothic tale about the apocalyptic connection between religion and violence. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this novel, set in Utah, Rudd Theurer is a disturbed teenager from a troubled home. Discovering his late father's letters, he learns of a possible half-brother and eventually finds (or possibly invents) another teenager, Lael Korth. Past and present mingle as Rudd's fascination with an early 20th-century Mormon murder involving blood-sacrifice rites leads him and Lael to murder a picnicking family, a crime in which Rudd himself is seriously injured. The only survivor, the family's teenage daughter, Lyndi, thinks that Rudd was an unfortunate innocent at the scene and befriends him, eventually becoming involved with him. His increasingly bizarre behavior centers on a twisted identification with the earlier murderer and leads, potentially, to another crime. Though clues are provided regarding the sources of Rudd's problems, the reader never learns enough to view him as more than a psychotic monster. Ex-Mormon Evenson (The Wavering Knife: Stories) intends this as an exploration of Mormonism's dark underside. While the novel may strike a chord with those of similar background, it won't resonate with the general reader.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Undercurrents of Mormon belief carry a teenage boy toward madness and murder in a novel bound to distress believers. Non-Mormons, on the other hand, may feel confused and alienated by the sectarian tensions chronicled in this lugubrious tale of a religion-fueled journey into madness. Forced to resign from Brigham Young University after the publication of his debut (Altmann's Tongue, 1994), excommunicated from the church at his own request in 2000, the gore-inclined Evenson can be presumed to know his Mormon business, which figures heavily in this story. Going through his deceased father's correspondence, Utah high-schooler Rudd discovers that he has a half-brother named Lael Korth somewhere in the state. Rudd's distinctly unpleasant and unloving mother denies any such person exists, but the friendless kid tracks down the Korths in a nearby community and builds a relationship with Lael, who turns out to be something of a sociopath. Lael and Rudd are both interested in blood atonement, an unacknowledged and violent tenet of the early Mormons that may have figured in the suicide of the boys' father. Manipulated by the creepy Lael, Rudd eventually finds himself participating in his father's exhumation and after that in the murder of a family of campers unlucky enough to cross the boys' path at the wrong time. Found senseless and close to death near the victims, Rudd remembers nothing of the ritualistic slaughter. The family's only surviving member, a girl slightly older than Rudd, disastrously drifts into a close relationship with the ever-more-deeply disturbed boy. A very serious, very cold look at the issue of violence in Mormon history and its pernicious effect on a modern life.
From the Publisher
"No matter what book of Evenson's we're talking about, a reader might indeed feel like something had been inflicted upon him, after spending time inside Evenson's books, which are so frequently violent and disorienting, destablizing norms of behavior just as they destabilize identity, place, and memory."Believer Logger
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566892667
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 223
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Praised by Peter Straub for going "furthest out on the sheerest, least sheltered narrative precipice," Brian Evenson is the author of eight previous books of fiction, including the Edgar Award-nominated novel The Open Curtain and the International Horror Guild Award-winning collection, The Wavering Knife. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island where he directs Brown University's Literary Arts Program.
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