Wednesday, September 10, 2014

QUICK REVIEW: Neverhome by Laird Hunt


An extraordinary novel about a wife who disguises herself as a man and goes off to fight in the Civil War.

She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company (first published September 1st 2014)
ISBN  0316370134 (ISBN13: 9780316370134)

About the Author

Laird Hunt is the award-winning author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), originally from Smokeproof Press, though now re-released by Marick Press, and five novels from Coffee House Press: The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) Ray of the Star (2009) and Kind One (2012), which was a finalist for both the 2013 Pen/Faulkner award and the 2013 Pen USA Literary Award in Fiction and the winner of a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. A new novel, Neverhome, will be published in the United States by Little, Brown and by Chatto in the UK. His translation of Oliver Rohe’s Vacant Lot was published by Counterpath Press, who also published his co-translation with Anne-Laure Tissut of Arno Bertina’s Brando, My Solitude. He is published in France by Actes Sud, and has novels either published or forthcoming in Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and Turkey. His writings, reviews and translations have appeared in the United States and abroad in, among other places, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Bomb, Bookforum, Grand Street, The Believer, Fence, Conjunctions, Brick, Mentor, Inculte, and Zoum Zoum. Currently on faculty in the University of Denver’s Creative Writing Program, where he edits the Denver Quarterly, he has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony and the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and was in residence at Marfa (Lannan Foundation) this past summer. He and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their daughter, Eva Grace.

Check out the author's website
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My Thoughts
I think we both of us knew from the start where the conversation was wending but we talked on it, took it every angle, sewed at it until the stitch stayed shut. I was to go and he was to stay.
During the heat of the Civil War, young Constance changes her name to Ash, and dressed as a man she leaves her husband Bartholomew and their home in Indiana to join the fight.

I'm a little conflicted with this book. On the one hand, it was a bit slow and meandering. I noted early on that the writing could be a bit boring at times.

However on the other hand it was an intriguing story line, with little bits of human observations that were spot on. I loved little things like the time she talks about when she was preparing to disguise herself as a man, she would put on pants at night and run until it felt natural. You see, women don't run or wear pants, and if she was going to portray herself as a man, running and wearing pants would have to be natural. Besides it was just plain fun, running with abandon and without self-consciousness!

Sometimes I would get the feeling that there was a deeper meaning to life hidden within the words...
The rain came down hard through the lilac bush. I don't know why I was sitting under it. There is shelter and then there is the idea of shelter. Shore up under the second all you want. You still get wet.
Unfortunately I found that this book was sort of like TV with me-- I found that I missed a lot. I would read mention of something later in the story that I didn't even remember happening to begin with.

My final word: This was a pretty good story, but it felt a bit disjointed and superficial. For a first person narrative, I felt surprisingly detached from Constance/Ash, and much of the story felt like flashes of images and small glimpses into the person that Constance truly is, preventing me from feeling as if I really knew her. And I was especially not fond of the ending of the book. But overall it was a pretty good story. It just fell short of my expectations is all, and I think it's a book that won't linger with me for the long haul.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Hachette Book Group

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

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