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.