Come in and Cover Me

( 5 )


When Ren was twelve years old, she lost her older brother to a car accident. For twenty-five years he’s been a presence in her life, appearing with a song or a reflection in the moonlight. Her connection to the ghosts around her has made her especially sensitive as an archaeologist, understanding the bare outline of our ancestors, recreating lives and stories, and breathing life into those who occupied this world long before us. On the cusp of the most important find of her career, it is the ghosts who are ...

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Come in and Cover Me

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When Ren was twelve years old, she lost her older brother to a car accident. For twenty-five years he’s been a presence in her life, appearing with a song or a reflection in the moonlight. Her connection to the ghosts around her has made her especially sensitive as an archaeologist, understanding the bare outline of our ancestors, recreating lives and stories, and breathing life into those who occupied this world long before us. On the cusp of the most important find of her career, it is the ghosts who are guiding her way. But what they have to tell Ren about herself, and her developing relationship with the first man to really know her since her brother’s death, is unexpected—a discovery about the relationship between the past and the future, and the importance of living in the moment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though Phillips’s second novel initially seems like a Harlequin romance for intellectuals (albeit one gussied up with necromancy and archeology), the result proves surprisingly moving. Haunted by memories of her brother, Scott (who died in a car accident when she was 12), 37-year-old Santa Fe archeologist Ren Taylor must literally release the ghosts of her past in order to pursue a promising romance with her colleague, Silas. Despite a banal and predictable plot, Phillips (The Well and the Mine) adroitly sidesteps sentiment, enriching Ren’s world with depth and detail. While studying the Mimbres tribes of the Southwest, Ren utilizes her gift of seeing and communicates with ghosts at the sites she excavates to find out where to dig and how the uncovered artifacts were used. Ren’s passion for personalizing her work, attributing artifacts to specific individuals and striving to tell their stories, causes disagreements with Silas, who can’t believe her approach really works. In this and other exchanges, Phillips nicely illustrates the conflict between masculine reason and feminine intuition. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Phillips moves away from the stark realism of her accomplished first novel, The Well and the Mine, to offer a magical work in many senses of the word. Archaeologist Ren Taylor is celebrated for an extraordinary find: three 12th-century bowls made by the Mimbreños, the Willow People, a Southwest culture long vanished. The bowls bear a distinctive bird pattern that Ren attributes to a single artist, and she is determined to reconstruct the artist's life. That's not as hard as it sounds, because Ren has visions—and in fact has had them since the death of her beloved brother, Scott, who nevertheless still visits her for chats in the moonlight. When she gets a call from Silas Cooper, who's working at a site in southern New Mexico and has found something related to the work of Ren's mysterious artist, Ren rushes to the site. There, the ghosts flood in, giving Ren a picture of what happened to the artist and her people, even as Ren's growing relationship with Silas helps her work out problems closer to home. VERDICT Some readers might have trouble accepting Ren's visions, but those who do accept them will find a lush, glowing, truly enjoyable work. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/11.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
After the well-received The Well and the Mine (2009), Phillips' second novel tackles ghosts, both real and metaphorical, on an archaeological dig in New Mexico. Ren's defining characteristic is not that she is a successful archaeologist or that she is the curator of pre-Columbian artifacts at a New Mexico museum. It is that she sees ghosts. Most frequently she sees the ghost of her brother Scott, dead from a car accident when she was a child 25 years ago. She also sees glimpses of people while on digs--people who lived 1,000 years ago and re-inhabit excavation sites, giving her the (professionally advantageous) opportunity to see brief snapshots of life as it was. Now Ren might have found the thing she's been looking for--additional pottery from an ancient Puebloan (popularly called the Anasazi) she calls the Artist, whose extraordinary pottery she found years ago, but no more since. On site is fellow archaeologist Silas Cooper, smart and a little in awe of what he thinks of as Ren's "intuition" about the artifacts they uncover. Little does he know that Ren's artist, Lynay, is appearing on site along with her mother-in-law Non. The two ghosts seem vaguely aware of Ren as she and Silas uncover new sights and burial chambers, uncovering pots Lynay made. The narrative dips into the lives of Lynay and Non, a parrot handler, as Ren "sees" their lives unfold. In the less distant past Ren's happy childhood before Scott died, and the shattered life she lived with her parents, who became kind of living ghosts, seems to cast a dark shadow over the burgeoning romance she has begun with Silas. The secret of all these ghosts, Lynay, Scott and the memories of happier times, make Ren almost unreachable. Unfortunately, these disparate threads vie for prominence, making the relationship between Ren and Silas less important than it needs to be for the end to resonate. This uneven second novel offers fine details and character study, but it occasionally falls prey to overly ambitious plotting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594486487
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/31/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,189,463
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gin Phillips

Gin Phillips is the author of the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize winning novel The Well and the Mine. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Reading Group Guide

When Ren was only twelve years old, she lost her older brother, Scott, to a car crash. Since then, Scott has been a presence in her life, appearing as a snatch of song or a reflection in the moonlight. Now, twenty-five years later, her talent for connecting with the ghosts around her has made her especially sensitive as an archaeologist. More than just understanding the bare outline of how our ancestors lived, Ren is dedicated to re-creating lives and stories, to breathing life into those who occupied this world long before us. Now she is on the cusp of the most important discovery of her career, and it is ghosts who are guiding her way. But what do two long-dead Mimbres women have to tell Ren about herself? And what message do they have about her developing relationship with a fellow archaeologist, the first man to really know her since her brother's death?Come In and Cover Me is the moving story of a woman learning to let go of the past in order to move forward with her own future.

Written with the same warmth and depth of feeling that drew readers to The Well and the Mine, Phillips's debut, Come In and Cover Me is a haunting and engrossing new novel.



Gin Phillips lives in Birmingham, Alabama. The Well and the Mine is her first novel.


  • While Silas and many others approach archaeology from a broad cultural perspective, Ren’s approach focuses on the individual personal lives of her subjects. How does her history inform her practice of archaeology? What is the benefit of pursuing individuals?
  • Think about the ghosts in Come In and Cover Me. Are the ghosts that Ren sees in Cañada Rosa of a different sort than Scott’s ghost? Why or why not? Do they have different purposes in appearing to Ren? Why or why not? What do they want from-or for-her?
  • Think about how grief affects people differently. What do you think of Ren’s reaction to Scott’s death? Her parents’ reaction? How do you think a different reaction from her parents would have altered Ren’s response to the loss. How do you think they could have handled Scott’s death better?
  • Scott’s appearances to Ren are usually announced by a snatch of music. How is Scott’s ghost a metaphor for the way we hold on to memories of lost loved ones? What kinds of things cause you to remember people you have lost?
  • Silas challenges Ren in a way that she has never been challenged before. How is he different from the other men that she has dated in the past? What does he offer her that those men did not?
  • Gin Phillips has chosen a quote from the Book of Ruth for her epigraph, and in many ways Lynay and Non’s story mirrors the story of Ruth. Think about female companionship in Come In and Cover Me. How important is it? What is the significance of the last line of the novel in this context?
  • Storytelling is deeply important to all of the characters. In what ways do their attitudes toward telling their own stories differ? Think about storytelling in a larger context. Why is it important that we tell stories about ourselves to other people? How does Ren’s refusal to share her past hinder her ability to be part of a community?
  • Phillips takes time to pay attention to the little moments between people, whether between Ren and Silas, Ren as a child and her family, or Ren and the group at the dig. How do these moments bind us together? Silas talks often about how communities are shaped by outside influences. How do we build our own communities from the inside?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Archaeology + Ghosts = Yes, Please!

    "...When I read the synopsis of this book on the LTER list, I knew I had to request it, because Come In and Cover Me combines two of my great loves - archaeology and ghosts. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see that I had won a copy for review! Sometimes when you are very excited about something, it ends up not quite meeting your expectations, but Phillips did not disappoint me at all...

    ...Beyond all this, I think that Phillips writes beautifully - she has a way of pulling you into the story and keeping you there, and after reading this one, I'm hoping to find a copy of her first novel, The Well and the Mine. That one has gotten good press, and Come In and Cover Me is a superb sophomore novel."

    For full review, please visit me at Les Livres on Blogger!

    jaimeliredeslivres dot blogspot dot com

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 8, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings What an interest

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings
    What an interesting book?  This one was definitely different from my typical read - a few ghosts show up and chat with the main character and most of the story takes place on an archaeological dig, something I am definitely not familiar with.  So Ren is a young woman who dealt with tragedy, the death of a family member at a young age and never really dealt with it and it has affected her personal and professional life through the years.  As she is on a dig looking for this pottery artist from the past, the past sneaks up on her and she must eventually confront some issues and figure out how to live a full life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    "I have to believe the pieces can fit together...We owe the

    "I have to believe the pieces can fit together...We owe them that, to tell the truth about them," said archaeologist Ren Taylor. She and Silas Cooper have met at Crow Creek, an archaeological dig outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico because he's found another piece of an Indian ceramic bowl that he knows she'll want to see. She is an expert on these artifacts and believes they were all made by one particular Indian girl. It takes time for the reader to understand how Ren knows this is so. It all has to do with the death of her brother, Scott, when she was just twelve years old.

    Ren has a unique gift or curse, depending on your point of view. She senses the spirits of ghosts, including her brother and gradually as the story unfolds that of two Indian women, one younger and the other older. As these visions are increasing, Ren and Silas are falling in love. At first it seems so perfect. But Silas's inability to believe in Ren's gift and her ability to listen and hear the story of these very talented but haunting women, Lynay and Non, unnerves him, slightly souring their relationship. Sparks of love and arguments begin to fly as each displays weakness to the other.

    The dig provides more and more clues to the lives of a "lost" people, their lives paralleling the losses in Ren's life. There are many ways of dying and this tale is about ability to live perpetually in denial or to embrace the loss and move beyond it to creativity and beauty. Yes, it even means being able to mourn in order to free the Spirit to fully live. One has to be vibrantly alive to tell the story of the "lost" ones, and that telling makes even the objects left behind in the passing even more enchanting and gorgeous! Then true love blossoms!

    Come In and Cover Me is a unique story of love, death, loss and recovery; indeed it is a story of resurrection evolving out of the healing of love, memories, dreams, visions, and open and honest dialogue. The story is well-crafted, thoughtful, imaginative, and unforgettable in its gracious unfolding! Poignant, simply lovely contemporary fiction!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2012

    Not what I expected

    Come In and Cover Me was my book club's selection for the month. After reading the different reviews and comments, I could not wait to read it, however, after reading, I did not find this book very interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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