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Penny Bone’s flighty Aunt Clare mysteriously vanished nearly a month ago. And as some townsfolk search for a rational explanation, Penny and others suspect the supernatural. In The Gypsy Man, author Robert Bausch hops inside the heads of some dozen different characters to tell this tale of loss, loneliness, and Appalachian life in 1959. And, despite its 495-page duration, Bausch’s captivating “ain’t”- and “if’n”-filled prose proves a brisk read. It goes something like this: Penny’s trouble-prone husband, John Bone, is imprisoned after accidentally killing a young girl with a half-empty beer bottle that he tossed out of a truck while trying to stay sober. This leaves Penny all alone to look after their daughter and the aforementioned Clare, as well as John’s father, a hapless drunk who’s perpetually puking on himself. When Clare disappears, Penny fears it’s the work of the mythical kidnapping Gypsy Man, who legend says haunts the wooded mountainside. This spooky assumption becomes difficult to dispel once another mountain-dweller spots the creature’s calling card—a mass of oil, sticks, and leaves sculpted into human form—and a rock half-buried in Penny’s yard turns out to be a headstone. Sheriff Paxton, however, won’t listen to any of this superstitious nonsense, particularly from irrational mountainfolk who fire gunshots at approaching trucks without probable cause. He suspects Penny’s imprisoned husband is to blame when the bones of a long-missing boy are found buried beneath the headstone alongside a stack of cash. Ask Bausch to fill in the rest when he’s here at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Chris Shott)