Gerald has just married into a close knit Kentucky family. So when the kin receive word that Ory, one of his wife’s brothers, was shot by his girlfriend, Gerald gets the job of driving to Nebraska to pick him up. When he arrives in Wahoo, the Indian doctor at the hospital tells him that Ory had a "blood clot" and died.

The sheriff takes Gerald to the jail to meet Ory’s girlfriend, who shot him in an argument about a wig. Later, he decides to take Ory back to Kentucky. Two days later he arrives home with the corpse covered with dirt in the back of his pickup. "The stench was bad and getting worse." (p. 31)


Chris Offut writes in a compressed, spare style reminiscent of Raymond Carver. The eight stories in "Out of the Woods" concern displaced persons, men who have turned their backs on the ridges of eastern Kentucky, or who have returned home and discovered that they can’t go home again.

In the title story, Ory comes back as a corpse and Gerald, the instrument of return, suddenly sees himself in the dead man’s place: "Abruptly, as if doused by water, he knew why Ory had left." (p. 33) The return from Nebraska, with the stench and "a buzzard circling above the truck" (p. 29), evoke the darkly comic postmortem journey of William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying (annotated in this database by Jack Coulehan and also by Jan Willms).

Primary Source

Out of the Woods


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



Page Count