Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Neverhome: A Novel

Title:  Neverhome: A Novel
Author:  Laird Hunt
Publication Information:  Little, Brown and Company. 2014. 256 pages.
ISBN:  0316370134 / 978-0316370134

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "You think you are never going to get back and then you are there and you wonder if you were ever gone."

According to the Smithsonian Institute, about 400 women dressed themselves as men and fought in the Civil War. Neither the Union nor the Confederate army allowed women to enlist, following the prevalent view of the times that women belonged in the home. The enlistment age for men was eighteen; however, many younger boys lied about their age and enlisted. Because the young men were not as developed physically, the women blended in more easily. The lack of facial hair and the slighter builds were simply taken as a sign of younger age and not of gender differences.

Neverhome tells the story of one such woman. Constance "Ash" Thompson leaves her farm and her husband and enlists in the Union Army. She is a skill hunter, forager, and shooter. The book begins with the start of her harrowing journey with her regiment and continues through the war to her eventual return home. Through her eyes, the book depicts battles, killing, betrayals, sympathizers, prisons, and the daily struggle of surviving a war, particularly as a woman in disguise.

Much as I looked forward to the premise of the book, this was not the book for me both because of gaps in the content and the writing style.

I love the premise of the book. A young woman taking on the garb of a man and going off to fight in the war. The story follows Ash's journey through the war and back home again. Unfortunately, the book never really fills in the back story. Why is Ash the one to go to war? Why does her husband stay home? Why does Ash talk to her dead mother? What in her life caused her to acquire the skills that make her a successful soldier? Without any of these answers, it is difficult to understand Ash, and since the book is entirely about her, it is difficult to get absorbed into the book.

The book is written as a first person narrative in Ash's voice. The character is depicted as a woman of her times, with little formal education but a lot of life skills. The narrative voice captures that lack of education, and there is no break from that voice. The narrative takes on a choppy quality and makes the book challenging to read in its entirety.

The first person narrative also makes the book take on a journal like quality. As a result, the book is very descriptive in nature. Ash tells the story, rather than the book showing the story and putting the reader into the middle of it. Again, this makes it challenging to truly delve into the book.

Also as a journal can sometimes be, the book tends to drift from topic to topic through the meanderings of her thoughts. Again, her thoughts touch upon so much in her background - her mother's death, her marriage, her husband, lost children - but these topics are never explored. Ash seems to have many secrets, but they seem to simmer beneath the surface and never emerge to the reader. It gets frustrating to get these glimmers of things that have led Ash to this point and then not get the answer. In fact, the question of "why" looms so large that it overshadows the ability to focus on her descriptions of her harrowing experiences of war and what comes after.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment