Judas, the son of a famous potter, is pathologically shy and retreats into a world of anonymous sexual encounters despite his real longing for a relationship with one of the boys at the private school he attends that was founded by his ancestral grandfather. Driven by his mother's secretive nature, Judas begins digging into his family's history, and the school's, until he unearths secrets that cause him to question everything.
Night Soil is a remarkably layered and nuanced novel that explores many themes simultaneously—the relationship between a single mother and her son, the repercussions of slavery and racism in America, the abuse of our natural environment, the search for a paternal role model—all through the life of a singularly unique gay character. These seemingly disparate themes solidify into a striking portrait of America’s uneasy history. Creating such a multifaceted narrative is a difficult task to pull off convincingly, but Peck has done it with nuance and authenticity.
This elegantly written sucker punch of a novel from Peck ... contemplates the existential dilemma at the core of civilization: 'Persevere despite the absence of hope, or give up and forfeit what it means to be human.' Peck’s moving, precisely rendered prose binds the reader to Judas with a knot tied so tightly that the character and the novel are impossible to forget.
A lush, provocative, and thought-provoking story of queer identity at the intersection of art, family history, capitalism, and the American racial order ... In juxtaposing pristine paeans to nature with...nauseating scenes, Peck creates a sense of how thin the line between beauty and depravity is. A compelling novel about queer identity and the sins that continue to haunt the American project.