Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Out Backward

Out Backward

3.7 6
by Ross Raisin

See All Formats & Editions

Sam Marsdyke is a lonely young man, dogged by an incident in his past and forced to work his family farm instead of attending school in his Yorkshire village. He methodically fills his life with daily routines and adheres to strict boundaries that keep him at a remove from the townspeople. But one day he spies Josephine, his new neighbor from London. From that


Sam Marsdyke is a lonely young man, dogged by an incident in his past and forced to work his family farm instead of attending school in his Yorkshire village. He methodically fills his life with daily routines and adheres to strict boundaries that keep him at a remove from the townspeople. But one day he spies Josephine, his new neighbor from London. From that moment on, Sam's carefully constructed protections begin to crumble—and what starts off as a harmless friendship between an isolated loner and a defiant teenage girl takes a most disturbing turn.

Editorial Reviews

Thomas Meaney
Sam Marsdyke has already earned comparisons to Anthony Burgess's Singin'-in-the-Rain Alex, among other esteemed psychopaths. But Out Backward more convincingly registers the internal logic of unredeemable delinquency, a dangerous subjectivity that perverts compassion and sees everything as an extension of itself.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In this creepy, lyrical debut, Raisin explores the fine line between sanity and insanity with Sam Marsdyke, an awkward late teenager who was thrown out of school after being accused of attempting to rape a schoolmate. Sam now works his family's farm along with his father, and there he notices Josephine Reeves, a 15-year-old whose family has moved from London to the Yorkshire village where Sam resides. After an inauspicious beginning, Sam and Josephine strike up a friendship that culminates with them running away together. Soon, Sam's tenuous grip on reality slips, giving the reader a frightening glimpse into the mind of a psychopath. What happens next will shock readers, yet compel them to read faster to learn the outcome. Although the author's liberal use of the Yorkshire dialect and a stream-of-consciousness narration ("Sackless article the wether kept indoors, as Father went and in the pen and fastened the tupping harness around the ram's neck, and the gate was unsnecked"), it's true to the protagonists roots and lends an air of authority to this tightly plotted and disturbing effort. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Prior to the opening of this story, teenager Sam Marsdyke was dogged by accusations of rape, forcing him to leave school and work on his family's farm in Yorkshire, England. When a new family with a 15-year-old daughter moves in next door, Sam's father orders his son to keep his distance. But Sam's obsession with the forbidden drives him to stalk Jo, and the two eventually meet. A friendship develops, and it doesn't take long for the attraction to turn physical. They run away together, and all goes well until Jo decides she wants to return home to her family. Sam's tenuous hold on reality slips as events careen out of his control. While the story often points toward Sam and his psychopathic tendencies, Raisin plays with the lines of power in the relationship by suggesting that Jo knew all about the rumors of Sam's past and sought him out. This echo of themes from Nabokov's Lolita questions who really is the victim. The story is plotted more along the lines of a literary novel than a thriller, and the focus rests on the deep examination of the characters and what drives them. Because it is written in Yorkshire dialect, which recalls the visceral lyricism of Irvine Welsh, some readers might be put off by the prose, but those able to soak into it will find a rewarding-if somewhat disturbing-tale of fear, obsession, and sexuality.-Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA

Kirkus Reviews
London-resident Raisin's first novel is a chilling-at times terrifying-narrative set in rural Yorkshire. Sam Marsdyke is 19 and no longer in school, primarily because he'd been accused of rape when caught in a compromising position with a girl in his classroom, so he now works on his father's farm. Farm life depicted here is gritty and grimy and includes sheep-dipping and dog-whelping. Sam's life has a certain order determined by the flow of the seasons, but things change when a neighboring farm is bought by "towns" (i.e., rich city-folk), allowing Sam to come in contact with 15-year-old Jo Reeves. Given Sam's past, it's obviously not advisable to get these two together, but they're brought together by boredom and by an alienation from modern culture. Eventually things get so bad for Jo at home that she decides to run away, and she persuades Sam to accompany her. What starts as something of a lark, scampering on the Moors a la Cathy and Heathcliff, becomes ominous. After sating themselves in the dining car of a local train, they're dropped off near Whitby and soon find themselves needing to forage for food. They collude in stealing canned goods from a grocer but are recognized and then become fugitives on the lam. While Jo is ready to return to her cushier life, Sam becomes more controlling, more dominant and more threatening. Because the novel is told through Sam's eyes, we're seduced into his way of seeing, and we sense the growing threat posed to Jo but can do nothing about it. Sam's speech has a quaint, rural quality, part Yorkshire poetry and (seemingly) part Anthony Burgess: "my senses were daffled and out of kilter"; "we were powfagged after our adventures"; "he glegged at hischarver but he didn't know what to do neither."A novel successful in creating a mood of menace. Agent: Peter Straus/Rogers, Coleridge & White
J. M. Coetzee
“Ross Raisin’s story of how a disturbed but basically well-intentioned rural youngster turns into a malevolent sociopath is both chilling in its effect and convincing in its execution.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
386 KB

Read an Excerpt

Out Backward


Ramblers. Daft sods in pink and green hats. It wasn't even cold. They moved down the field swing-swaying like a line of drunks, addled with the air and the land, and the smell of manure. I watched them from up top, their bright heads peeping through the fog. Sat on my rock there I let the world busy itself below, all manner of creatures going about their backwards-forwards same as always, never mind the fog had them half-sighted. But I could see above the fog. It bided under my feet, settled in the valley like a sump-pool spreading three miles over to the hills at Felton.

The ramblers hadn't marked me. They'd walked past the farm without taking notice, of me or of Father rounding up the flock from the moor. Oi there ramblers, I'd a mind for shouting, what the bugger are you doing, talking to that sheep? Do you think she fancies a natter, eh? And they'd have bowed down royal for me then, no doubt. So sorry, Mr Farmer, we won't do it again, I hope we haven't upset her. For that was the way with these so respect-minded they wouldn't dare even look on myself for fear of crapping up Nature's balance. The laws of the countryside. And me, I was real, living, farting Nature to their brain of things, part of the scenery same as a tree or a tractor. I watched as the last one over the stile fiddled with a rock on top the wall, for he thought he'd knocked it out of place weighting himself over. Daft sods these ramblers. I went toward them.

Halfway down the field the fog got hold of me, feeling round my face so as I had to stop a minute and tune my eyes, though I still had sight of the hats, no bother. They were only a short way intothe next field, moving on like a line of chickens, their heads twitching side to side. What a lovely molehill. Look, Bob, a cuckoo behind the drystone wall. Only it wasn't a cuckoo, I knew, it was a bloody pigeon.

I hadn't the hearing of them just yet, mind, but I knew their talk. I followed on, quick down to the field bottom and straight over the wall. Tumbled a couple of headstones to the ground as I heaved myself up, but no matter. Part of Nature me, I'd a licence for that. They couldn't hear me anyhow, their ears were full of fog. I was in the field aside theirs and I slunk along the wall between, until they were near enough I could see them through the stone-cracks, bobbing along. I listened to them breathing, heavy, like towns always breathe when they're on farmland. Weekend exercise for them, this was, like sex. Course they were going to buy a pink hat to mark the occasion.

A middle of the way down the field and they stopped. They parked down in a circle like they fancied a campfire but instead they whipped out foil parcels and a Thermos and started blathering. I've got ham. Who wants ham?

I'll have ham.

Oh, wait a moment. Pink Hat inspected the sarnies. We have a choice ham and tomato, or ham and Red Leicester?

He gave them each a parcel, then stood the Thermos in the middle of the circle. Nasty old day still, he said. Wish it would perk up a little. Doesn't look too promising, though, said one of the females. I teased a small stone out the wall and plastered it in sheep shit.

That is such nice ham.

Isn't it? Tesco, you know.

Crack. I hit the Thermos bang centre, tea and shit splashing up the fog.

They hadn't a clue. It was a job to keep from laughing as they skittled about and scanned the sky as if they were being bombed. Or maybe they feared they'd pissed the cuckoo off upset Nature's balance, sitting in a field. Didn't think to look over at me crouching behind the wall. So down I went for the shit pile and I threw another stone, but it missed and hit a female on her foot. I might've flung a headstone at her and she'd not have felt it through them walking boots but that wasn't going to stop her screaming her lungs out her windpipe. Behind the wall, there's someone behind the wall, quickly let's go. Quickly! They were all on their feet soon enough, grabbing up the picnic and escaping down the field. Run for your lives, towns, run for your lives. When they were out of range, Pink Hat turned and blabbed something about a peaceful day out, they meant no harm please leave them alone.

But I couldn't be fussed with them any more. I waited for them to scarper then I started back to the farm. The pups would be needing a feed, and I was rumbling for a bite myself. Near the top the field I looked round to see how far they'd got, likely they were halfway to Felton by now, they were that upshelled. So I was fair capped when I saw they'd come back. I couldn't rightly make out what they were up to at first, all I could see was their heads huddled behind a wall and Pink Hat galloping up the hillside. He snatched something up off the ground and it glinted an instant before he put it in his rucksack. They'd left the tin foil behind.

In the old stable the pups were asleep, the four of them piled up snuffling against Jess's side. She had an eye awake, looking on while I took a plate of chopped liver off the shelf and lay it by for when they were ready. Then I went in the kitchen, and there was a smell drufting about that got in my nostrils and reached down my gullet. Biscuits. I opened the oven, but it was empty. Door was warmish, mind, like a cow's underbelly, and I pressed my hand against it a time, letting the heat slug up my arm before I stood up and went for the cupboards.

Out Backward. Copyright © by Ross Raisin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

J. M. Coetzee
“Ross Raisin’s story of how a disturbed but basically well-intentioned rural youngster turns into a malevolent sociopath is both chilling in its effect and convincing in its execution.”

Meet the Author

Ross Raisin is the author of Out Backward, winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, a Betty Trask Award, and other honors. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Out Backward 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Yorkshire lonely teenager Sam Marsdyke was strongly told to drop out of school when he was accused of attempted rape he left the classroom and no charge, not even assault, was filed against him. He lives and works on the family farm along side his acrimonious angry father and his submissive silent mother. Increasingly the area and the central village are being gentrified by wealthy Southerners to the dismay of generational long timers like Sam¿s outraged old man. --- Sam sees fifteen years old Josephine Reeves, who has moved with her family from London onto the adjoining farm. Already hearing about Sam¿s scandalous incident, her father warns Sam to stay away from his daughter or else. Still the two teens becomes friends even as Sam stalks her sitting for hours on the nearby hill to catch a glimpse of his beloved. Jo encourages him to risk more. Finally she decides to run away and persuades Sam to accompany her not that it took much. On their trek nothing goes right until Jo insists he let her go home, but he refuses. --- This is an astonishing disturbing look at two characters one might be a sociopath manipulating the other, but who is the deranged one as Sam seems obvious but Jo seemingly has cleverly maneuvered him to her bidding, or has he been the one in control. The stunning stark cover enhances the sense of doom while the local dialect adds to the overall tension of an increasingly creepy feeling that this is not going to end well. Fans need to set aside plenty of time because this one sitting read will grip the audience with the obsess need to know who, if either or both, are left standing. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here's an intriguing debut novel to add to your 'Coming Soon' list. Sam Marsdyke is an odd young man. He lives on the family sheep farm in Yorkshire with his angry, taciturn father and his docile mother. He no longer attends school, having been told to leave after an 'incident' involving a female student. No charges were pressed. 'Southerners' are buying up the local properties around the Marsdyke farm. The town dynamic is changing. Old pubs and shops are falling by the wayside to make way for 'new and better'. When a 'town' family buys the farm next door, Sam is warned off by his father. ' And you'll let them alone 'an all. They've a daughter'. Sam has limited social skills, but an active imagination. Too active. He is a lonely young man, but frightening as well. He brings a basket of mushrooms to the new neighbours, but after giving them to the family, he skulks around their windows, spying on them and inventing situations and dialogue. He becomes fixated on the young daughter of the family. He sits for hours on the hills, watching their house with only his dogs and sheep for companions. We feel sorry for Sam and his limited life, but repelled by his vindictive thoughts and the frightening actions that sometimes follow, as with his elderly neighbour Delton. Raisin has endowed Sam with a rich and full Yorkshire vocabulary, which greatly adds to the Sam's character development. Sam grasps desperately at any interactions with Jo the neighbour girl, building upon them in his mind. For her part, we wonder is she using him to create trouble with her parents or is she actually interested in him as a person? She is a rebellious girl and we are alternatively hopeful that she will see the good in Sam, angry that she may be taking advantage of him and worried that she should not be around the unpredictable Sam. For all his misguided attempts at normalcy that end badly, we still want to cheer for Sam. His heart seems to be in the right place, but his mind is not there with it. Jo - the girl- decides to run away from home and asks Sam to go with her. Sam is thrilled and off they go. However the journey does not go as planned for either one. Sam has great plans for the two of them and only wants to look after Jo, but he quickly runs off track. Jo has had enough and wants to go home, but Sam won't let her. Is Sam as daft as he lets on, or is he mad, with moments of lucidity? Has he been taken advantage of or has he engineered his own downfall? I won't spoil the ending, but I was thinking of the book and it's characters long after I finished it. Raisin has painted a portrait of a young man that is both appealing and unsettling at the same time. I look forward the the next offering from this new author.
brittrenee13 More than 1 year ago
I saw this book on a must-read list and several reviews said it was "disturbing." Were there some disturbing parts? Yes. But overall, no dramatic action happens in this book. I kept waiting for the "big, disturbing" moment and it never came. Basically, the main character Sam, gets tricked into thinking Josephine actually likes him. I was disappointed with this book. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. It was a little mysterious but that's about it.
trbCA More than 1 year ago
I am recommending this book because I continued to think about its main character, Sam, long after I finished.  I rarely do that, but in this case, I thought back to where I missed clues. I wondered how the author caused  me to care about a disturbed young man.  When I started the book, I almost stopped reading it because it disturbed me. At the end, I decided to recommend it. hummmmm.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago