Hanover, NH, University Press of New England (1997)
229 pages Hardcover $24.95
Garrett Benteen, self-created baron of a Vermont village, will not abide destruction of the land around him. The buzz of the chainsaw, the felling of trees, the raising of flimsy spec houses warrant more than mere headshaking—to Benteen they are calls to battle. Using his wealth and the sheer force of his personality, he manipulates friends and neighbors to sustain his vision of what the town has been and what he believes it must continue to be. Even at his most magnanimous, Benteen is intent on control, and arrogant in his conviction that he knows best. His beneficiaries seethe with resentment, and it is this interplay, the tension between this man of wealth and power and those he would control, that shapes Judgment Hill.
South of White River the great highway, 91, takes a bend to the west on top of a rise, and as you go into it you can look over the country for twenty, thirty miles and see 91 where it winds and turns along the river valley, path of conquest, serpent, vast, corrupting worm, fell messenger, incubus—a soul-harlot lewdly lying beside the chaste green hills. (Chapter 1)
“Judgment Hill initially appears to be a standard variation on the theme of environmental and cultural conflict, but the loopy characters, sudden plot twists, and occasional use of metafictional techniques make this novel unique. . . . The landscape and small-town life of New England are vividly evoked, and the author’s mastery of the region’s dialect is superb. . . . It could become a cult classic.”—Library Journal
“When it comes to the things that make a story wonderful, straight ingenuity is almost impossible to beat, though sadly it was never meant to be sprinkled everywhere. Many novels lead perfectly satisfying lives without it. So what’s Castle Freeman, Jr. doing with such an abundance of this prized ingredient? His modest novel manages to turn Vermont . . . into a place of awe, confusion and surprise.”
“If fresh talent is as thrilling to witness in literature as it is in sports, then reading Castle Freeman, Jr.’s Judgment Hill must be almost as rousing as what baseball fans felt while watching Jackie Robinson’s first games in a Dodger uniform. First novel though this is, the writing aptitude that brought these words on to the page is mature and of a very high order.”—David Huddle, The World & I