Friday, September 5, 2014

Review of Neverhome by Laird Hunt


Neverhome: A Novel by Laird Hunt
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Length: 256 pages
Source: Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley

I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic.

So begins Laird Hunt’s mesmerizing and beautifully written new novel, Neverhome.

Constance Thompson is a young farmer’s wife still reeling from the fresh grief of her mother’s death. A year into the Civil War, Constance decides that someone must represent her Indiana farm in the Union cause. Her husband Bartholomew has poor eyesight and lacks Constance’s sharp skills with a gun and fearless nature. Thus, Constance, dressed as a man, enlists in an Ohio company as “Ash” Thompson, while Bartholomew remains to tend their homestead.

With subtle but evocative prose, Hunt relays Ash’s experiences as a new recruit, from the nearly worthless training to the harrowing fields of battle. Slowly, it becomes apparent to the reader that Ash has been drawn to the fight not only from patriotism or a sense of duty; she is running away from something. Hunt skillfully reveals the truths of her past life as Constance, while describing soldier Ash’s journey through the war and quest to return home again.

I will not be the first reader, and I am sure not the last, to compare Neverhome to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. The odyssey of Constance/Ash did make me think of Frazier’s Inman, but Hunt has his own unique and complex story of love, loss, and identity to tell . . . and he tells it masterfully, indeed. From the enthralling opening lines to the startling conclusion, Neverhome is a literary triumph.

I will certainly want to discover more of Laird Hunt’s work. From his backlist, I am most intrigued by his 2012 novel, Kind One, the story of two slave girls who hold their white mistress captive. That will go onto my To Be Read list, to be sure.

I highly recommend Neverhome to readers of literary fiction and historical fiction. I would rate this novel a 5 out of 5 stars, and I suspect it may be one of my favorite novels for the year.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, through NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, as always, are solely my own.

9 comments:

  1. I keep reading glowing reviews of Neverhome but I'm hesitant to read it because I loved a similar novel so much. In I Will Be Near To You, the wife actually goes and enlists alongside her husband because she can't bear to be away from him. It was a beautiful story and I'm afraid I will get the two books confused!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I've heard great things about that novel as well, which I think was just released in paperback this month. New this month is also Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott, which is a non-fiction account of women undercover spies during the Civil War. I'd like to get to both of those books at some point! But I do think that Neverhome and I Shall Be Near to You, despite covering the same general topic, go in different directions with the characters and storyline. Interesting that there are 3 books about women in the Civil War this year!

      Delete
  2. Oooh, I really enjoy Civil War books. I just read I Will Be Near to You as well. (great read!) I really love the cover of this one...beautiful :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, this cover art is really evocative. I love it, too!

      Delete
  3. I couldn't get into the book. I must be in the minority, though.

    ENJOY your week, and thanks for the review.

    Giveaway going on at my blog until Thursday for Accidents of Marriage if anyone wants to stop by.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Books can be so personal, right? What one person loves, another person will find just doesn't work for them.

      I will go enter your giveaway now--I've heard great things about Accidents of Marriage. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. I share your appreciation of this novel. In addition to battle scenes, Laird also takes us to a hellish place where so-called insane people were dumped. Of course, I have read and seen movies about what "insane asylums" were like in the near and distant past. But Neverhome's telling of what happened in such a place shocked me. This made Laird's novel considerably different than other Civil War novels that I have read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree! Before reading Neverhome, I think I thought there wouldn't be much more to interest me about the Civil War . . . . he certainly brought a completely new perspective to the time period. I do want to read some of his backlist now.

      Delete
  5. Did you know you can shorten your urls with AdFly and make cash for every visitor to your shortened links.

    ReplyDelete