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.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
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
“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.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.
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.