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Outer Dark

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  10,378 Ratings  ·  836 Reviews
A woman bears her brother's child, a boy, the brother leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes. Discovering her brother's lie, she sets forth alone to find her son. Both brother and sister wander through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying strangers, toward an apocalyptic resolution.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 3rd 2007 by Picador USA (first published 1968)
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Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyThe Road by Cormac McCarthyNo Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthyChild of God by Cormac McCarthySuttree by Cormac McCarthy
Best Cormac McCarthy Books
7th out of 19 books — 133 voters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Sound and the Fury by William FaulknerIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteAs I Lay Dying by William FaulknerMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Best Southern Gothic Literature
22nd out of 119 books — 330 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mike Puma
Jan 29, 2012 Mike Puma rated it really liked it

***The following review, such as it is, might be considered spoilerish.

Proceeding cautiously through my long-awaited, chronological rereading of the works of Cormac McCarthy, reading the supplemental materials I’ve picked up over the years, and marveling at things I hadn’t noticed first time around. Isn’t that why we reread anything?

This one, as dark and foreboding as anything he’s written, in several ways, seems the telling of the Anti-Nativity—not the birth of the Anti-Christ, but a birth magn

Tom Troutman
Aug 27, 2016 Tom Troutman rated it it was amazing
Mar 28, 2012 Lawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not for the squeamish
Outer Dark: Cormac McCarthy's Novel of Judgment and Responsibility


And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30, KJV

If there were ever a more unprofitable servant to appear in literature, it would be difficult to find one less so than Culla Holme. Brother to Rinthy, he has perpetrated the social taboo of incest. He fears his sin will be found out. When Rinthy's water breaks, he allows her to suffer through labor, refusing t
The ancestors had called Europeans “the orphan people” and had noted that as with orphans taken in by selfish or coldhearted clanspeople, few Europeans had remained whole. They failed to recognize the earth was their mother. Europeans were like their first parents, Adam and Eve, wandering aimlessly because the insane God who had sired them had abandoned them.

-Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead
I will always be a fan of McCarthy because of his treatment of the "Western" tradition. How
Oct 16, 2014 Zoeytron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
An air of ruin permeates this bleak tale of abandonment, desperation, and want. 'Hard people makes hard times.' Culla and Rinthy Holme, brother and sister, were brought up hard. They ain't never had nuthin'.

Look for a man who bares 'his orangecolored teeth in a grimace of lecherous idiocy.' Regard the 'dead gray serpentine of the river' as it flows. See the old crone with the elfin face in the woods. She won't abide a hound dog on the place, but has no qualms with a pig rooting around and sleep
Nov 30, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-usa, e5
Quando era miúda ouvia falar, em surdina, num livro maldito que levava à loucura quem o lesse até ao fim. Como sempre fui mais curiosa que medrosa, no dia em que o encontrei tratei, rapidamente, de o ler (do fim para o princípio, para ter mais efeito maléfico); e não fiquei louca (pelo menos não mais que os demais). Teria cerca de dezasseis anos e, muito descrente de histórias de bruxaria, ri-me, perdidamente, imaginando a trabalheira que os feiticeiros tinham para conseguir os ingredientes ...more
Having given 5* to The Road (my review here, I was surprised and disappointed at how much I disliked this.

Like The Road, it is dark and sparse, and involves destitute people travelling on foot, looking for food, shelter and hope, but that is where the similarity ends.

This is set much longer ago (before cars) and tells several parallel and occasionally intersecting stories: a woman searching for her missing baby; her brother searching for her; a tinker t
From his earliest literary forays like 'The Orchard Keeper' and 'Suttree', it was clear that the American Novel had found its heir to Faulkner. His prose contained the same lyrical beauty and biblical gravity of his artistic predecessor, but with a harsh, often brutal clarity that was all his own.
With 'Outer Dark', he transcended the labels and comparisons, defining himself as the greatest prose stylist of his generation, framing the rough structure for his dark personal vision of America... pop
Jan 03, 2009 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All of the other reviews are too slavering, too worshipful, too fucking nerdy and self-referential to suggest that their authors actually read this book. I read about 15 of them, and not once did I see a comment, suggestion, reflection that added anything to my understanding of the text. Spare me the book reports. If you don't have anything to say, find a forum in which your lack of authority is expected: I suggest the rest of your life. Funny that I didn't see a single mention of its place in ...more
Jul 05, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Ive seen the meanness of humans till I dont know why God aint put out the sun and gone away.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Outer Dark


I keep reading Cormac McCarthy to find a single crack of light in his dark, grotesque lyricism. 'Outer Dark' was unconventional and amazing. The story was allegorical without being stiff, it was regional without being provincial. Like most of McCarthy's work it is Biblical in its power and intensity.

In 'Outer Dark', McCarthy is throwing chert boulders at the dark center of
Jan 24, 2013 Craig rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm not a fan of nonsense lyrical language nor am I a fan of incest cannibalist nihilism or lack of punctuation so this book is probably not the book for me.
Jul 17, 2011 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my second Cormac McCarthy read, having initiated myself years ago with his more Faulkneresque rookie effort, The Orchard Keeper. I really enjoyed this one—grim, brooding, spectral atmosphere, replete with three harrowing strangers, seeping violence, who dog the steps of the fraternal half of our brother-sister protagonists. The book begins with sin, and this particular stain won't wash out, regardless of how far the brother, Culla, journeys through unnamed Appalachia in an attempt to sc ...more
Jul 09, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Larry Bassett
Who were those three men? I am sure that (view spoiler)

I have read several Cormac McCarthy books: The Road, No Country for Old Men, Blood Meridian and Suttree. With the exception of Suttree I have not disliked any of those books and I even gave Suttree two stars (It Was OK) because of the stunning language that turned up regularly.

So Outer Dark was a special McCarthy experience for me. I could actually follow the story: sister has baby; brother abandons baby; s
This, much more so than the Orchard Keeper, feels like McCarthy's first full work. The narrative focus is much tighter, even if the journeys that Culla and Rinthy take are every bit as shiftless and as doomed. But by the end of the book, Mccarthy has stepped well beyond the typical southern Gothic territory he spends most of his first novel treading through. Outer Dark, with it's central incestuous conflict, could easily have been just another novel about screwed-up Appalachian degenerates. ...more
Sep 07, 2016 Jessaka rated it liked it
I read this in one day as it was that good. I was afraid that it was going to be a really dark read with a lot of violence, and not to say that it didn't have some moments, but it was no worse than "All the Pretty Horses." So, my next book by him will be "Blood Meridian." Might as well delve into the real darkness.

It reminded me somewhat of his book "The Road" but only in that Holmes was out looking for his sister who was roaming the country trying to find their baby, and in their search they we
May 13, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Color rating: Crimson

Here, in this forested glade lorded over by Moloch, I could remain evermore. I place Outer Dark in one of the medaled positions of McCarthy’s entire body of work—it’s that extraordinary. There is an ephemeral otherness to the whole affair that renders it an uncommon jewel of a novel (and a bit of an outlier in comparison to his other books): you’re required to do a lot of the heavy-lifting and connect some dots yourself. As I don’t mind working for my keep, that’s more than
Sentimental Surrealist
A lunatic and disgusting novel, Outer Dark sends an incestuous, impoverished and illiterate brother and sister across a hellish landscape populated by three violent vagabonds and a mysterious tinker, none of whom seem human. The brother, who abandons the child his sister bears him, experiences the worst in people. The sister, who sets off in search of this child, gets mainly the best. There's all this talk of names and how the damned don't have them and a lot of characters without names and a ...more
It's been said that for writer's first novels, it is inevitable that they wear their influences on their sleeves. This is certainly the case with Cormac McCarthy's second novel, Outer Dark. Steeped in the tradition of Southern Gothic writing, this story of wandering siblings perpetually on the wrong side of luck and fortune reads like a Faulknerian nightmare.

Rinthy Holme has no sooner given birth to her first child than its father, her brother Culla, hoping to rid himself of the incestuous offsp
Peycho Kanev
Aug 04, 2015 Peycho Kanev rated it it was amazing
Like a sledgehammer of dried rose petals to your skull. Terrific book!
Jan 17, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
Another harrowing slice of americana from McCarthy. Outer Dark is a disturbing story of a brother and sister with a terrible secret that tears apart their relationship and casts them both on separate journies through the angry lands of the rural south. The setting is gritty and hard -- a land where a person can't tell a preacher from a judge from a murderer --where the heat, swamps, and forgotten towns suck the souls from the characters. Misunderstood and often caught in situations beyond their ...more
Jul 08, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2014
What’s a jew?
One of them old-timey people from in the bible.

This was as bleak and foreboding as each McCarthy novel I've read so far. Perhaps made all the more enjoyable as I just returned from visiting a very “Child of God like” part of Tennessee. Almost put me off BBQ meat, though...

Wayne Barrett
Mar 03, 2016 Wayne Barrett rated it it was amazing
* 4.5
Brilliant piece of writing by Cormac McCarthy.
Marco Tamborrino
Sono tempi duri.
È la gente che rende duri i tempi. Ho visto tanta cattiveria fra gli uomini che non so perché Dio non ha ancora spento il sole e non se n'è andato.

Avendo letto prima altri romanzi di McCarthy, posso dire che - secondo me - questo è il meno riuscito. Lo scrittore deve ancora raggiungere la piena maturazione letteraria e sviluppare a pieno i suoi temi. Scrive sempre benissimo, non scade mai nel raccontato ma mostra tutto, la natura emana un potere proprio e la violenza è insita n
First thing I've read by Cormac McCarthy and it was pretty great. This book takes place in the same space as Grimms' fairy tales: a timeless and permanent dark landscape where the devil lurks casually, that in this age we all strain to forget exists. It's about being human in a way that predated the Internet and television by centuries, that might outlast all this shit and keep going on.

Hopefully though, McCarthy's works will survive whatever happens along with a sturdy Oxford English Dictionary
Kathrin Passig
Aug 12, 2013 Kathrin Passig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Wie schwer es wohl wäre, einen Cormac-McCarthy-Bot zu schreiben? Auf staubigen Straßen umhertaumelnde Gestalten, Mord und Totschlag, ein Scrabblewörterbuch, fertig ist die GESCHICHTE VON BIBLISCHER WUCHT UND ANTIKER UNENTRINNBARKEIT, die APOKALYPSE IM WILDEN WESTEN.
Bridgit Barger
Aug 19, 2016 Bridgit Barger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, 4-star-reads
Damn, McCarthy can write. Set in Appalachia, I read the majority of this while slightly inebriated, in a remote cabin in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains... which made for a memorable reading experience. Definitely a novel I intend to revisit in the future.
Kirk Smith
Jul 24, 2014 Kirk Smith rated it it was amazing
Absolute pleasure to read. Artistic perfection. The book and the author are classics!
Ned Mozier
May 21, 2016 Ned Mozier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course, I loved it. To my great surprise, I discovered that I had not read this one while leafing through my paperbacks. Knowing this author, it foreshadows much of his later work, especially with the biblical themes of original sin, banishment from the garden, and the journey that our actions take us on. That journey is dangerous, often humorous, but always tinged with the innate cruelty residing in the heart of man. The two characters seem oblivious to their original error (incest), though ...more
Victoria Young
Outer Dark (1968) is Cormac McCarthy's parable-like tale of a brother and sister each wandering the Appalachian trails around the turn of the century, encountering the extremes of goodness and evil in their travels. The writing has all of McCarthy's hallmarks: a creeping foreboding and atmosphere of malevolence; visceral descriptions of man and environment, plots that concern those on the fringe of society, steep contrasts between innocence and savagery. For readers unfamiliar with McCarthy, the ...more
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Cormac McCarthy is an American novelist and playwright. He has written ten novels in the Southern Gothic, western, and post-apocalyptic genres and has also written plays and screenplays. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film of the same name, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

His earlier Blood M
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“Ive seen the meanness of humans till I dont know why God aint put out the sun and gone away.” 42 likes
“Hard people make hard times. I've seen the meanness of humans till I don't know why god ain't put out the sun and gone away.” 16 likes
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