Every time I learn this, the truer it gets: We can only live our lives looking ahead, and we can only understand them looking back. So says Buddy Hinton, the protagonist of Kee Sloan’s mesmerizing debut novel. Growing up in rural Mississippi just a couple of miles from the Mississippi River, eight-year-old Buddy spends his summers playing in the woods behind his neighborhood. The day Buddy spots a wounded deer in those woods, he is wholly unprepared for a chance meeting with a stranger who will shape the course of his life. Jake—fisherman, ex-convict, former tent preacher—and Buddy form an unlikely bond that transcends age and race. Forged by their many conversations about life and faith, their friendship endures sorrows, celebrations, and transitions, ultimately revealing the power to heal them both.