Set in the South Carolina foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late summer of 1970, Blood Kin tells the story of the Burden family and the community of outcasts that surrounds them. James Burden is the eldest son in the Burden family. A Korean War veteran and former prisoner-of-war, he struggles with inner demons and drug addiction. He has returned home after almost two decades of absence to find his family members consumed with struggles all their own. His former wife is haunted by her thoughts of an unborn child. His brothers, both Vietnam veterans, are troubled by their experiences there. Roy Burden returned a hero, while Enis Burden saw no combat at all. The younger brothers are also dealing with troubles with love and the hopes of starting their own families. James's father is himself disturbed by his memories of his own father's dark deeds and death. And James's mother is plagued by worry for her husband and sons.
The Burdens face their struggles within a community of misfits, including a reluctant sheriff, a runaway thief, a forgotten fire-talker, a religious con man and his actress girlfriend, a local apple baron, and a failed prophet. All of them are living on the fringes of a rural South racing toward a middle-class modernity that has little use for any of them.
Blood Kin was awarded the 2005 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, an award named for one of the South's most celebrated writers. The annual prize, co-sponsored by the Knoxville Writers' Guild and the University of Tennessee Press, endeavours to bring to light novels of high literary quality, thereby honouring Peter Taylor's own practice of assisting writers who care about the craft of fiction.