Neverhomeby Laird Hunt
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITOR'S CHOICE
Inaugural winner of the Grand Prix de la Littérature Américaine
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/b>/b>/b>
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITOR'S CHOICE
Inaugural winner of the Grand Prix de la Littérature Américaine
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.
Following Kind One, Hunt returns to the 19th century to transform a footnote in history—the women who fought disguised as men in the Civil War—into a haunting meditation on the complexity of human character, the power of secrets, and the contradictions of the American experience. Saying that “he was made out of wool and I was made out of wire,” Constance Thompson leaves her husband Bartholomew to work their Indiana farm and enlists in the Union Army as Ash Thompson. Her strength, fortitude, and marksmanship serve her disguise well, and soldiering seems to offer some of the change she has craved. But the carnage inevitably takes its toll. Captured by bounty hunters, Constance must use both cunning and violence to escape. After an injury separates her from her unit, the nurse with whom she’s sheltered betrays her to the military authorities, and she is put in a madhouse. Though she finds her way back home, the war’s brutality has changed both her and the farm so much that familiar grounds offers no peace, only pain. Hunt’s characterization of Constance transcends simplistic distinctions between male and female, good and bad. The language of her narration is triumphant as well: sometimes blunt, sometimes visionary, and always fascinating. (Sept.)
"A spare, beautiful novel, so deeply about America and the language of America that its sentences seem to rise up from the earth itself. Laird Hunt had me under his spell from the first word of Neverhome to the last. Magnificent."Paul Auster, author of The New York Trilogy and Report from the Interior"
In this trim epic, Penelope marches into battle while Odysseus waits behind...Neverhome succeeds largely because Constance's voice sounds so historically distant, like a foreign cousin of our own era....What a rare pleasure to spend a few hours listening to the natural poetry of that antique voice."Ron Charles, The Washington Post"
Rarely, a voice so compels it's as if we're furtively eaves-dropping on a whispered confession, which is how I felt reading Neverhome: I was marching alongside Ash, eager for more of her well-guarded secrets....Hunt says he was inspired by the real-life tale of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, who disguised herself as 'Lyons Wakeman' and enlisted with the Union Army. Ash, however is entirely Hunt's own creation. His ability to evoke her demeanor and circumstances in a gorgeously written sentence or two is one of the book's many pleasures."Karen Abbott, The New York Times Book Review"
In fiercely gorgeous prose, Laird Hunt's Neverhome traces the mesmerizing odyssey of a singular woman, who stretches and shimmers from these pages, and stakes a piercing claim on our hearts. You won't soon forget Ash Thompson's voice or this astonishing novel."Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife"
Laird Hunt's new novel is a beguiling and evocative story about love and loss, duty and deceit. Through the assured voice of his narrator and the subtle beauty of his writing, Neverhome took me on a journey so thoroughly engrossed that there were times the pages seemed to turn themselves."Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds"
[Ash's] imagination and desires are presented as truer than her portrait-a physical document that makes false declarations not only about her allegiance to a weapon, but also her identity....Hunt's page-turner is not only a gripping story of love and war, but an homage to oral histories and quelled voices."Maddie Crum, The Huffington Post"
The Civil War has given us so many great literary works that I couldn't have imagined a new fictional approach that was both stunningly original and yet utterly natural, even inevitable. But this is just what Laird Hunt brilliantly delivers in his new novel. The key is his central character: in her voice, her personality, her yearning, she deeply touches our shared and enduring humanity. Neverhome is masterful work by one of our finest writers."Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain"
A masterful job of story-telling...many beautifully written passages....For all its blood and wandering, The Odyssey is a tale of triumph. Neverhome, as befits the modern age, is more ambiguous."Patrick Reardon, The Chicago Tribune"
Inspired by true stories of women who fought, this plainspoken story packs firepower."Kim Hubbard, People"
Hunt brings an especially bittersweet and lyrical tone to this forgotten part of Civil War history and gives to several hundred women who did indeed make the momentous decision to fight....An amazing book."Library Journal (starred review)"
Hunt uses Ash's powerful voice-a mixture of insight, eloquence and rural dialect-to make the brother-against-brother nightmare of the Civil War an intimate experience for the reader....Tragedy dogs the steps of a remarkable narrator whom readers will carry in their hearts long after her final battle."Shelf Awareness"
The novel's cadence is deceptively low-key-it lulls, then startles with its power-much like the miraculous Ash."O, the Oprah Magazine"
The heart of the novel is Ash's voice, at once sensitive, knowing and no-nonsense."Kirkus"
Even with a wide range of subjects, his writing plumbs the depths of the internal struggles we all face and the external circumstances that shape how we respond....Hunt's writing is straightforward, unadorned in its complete portrait. At no point does the story feel like one told by a man in the 21st century; it is all of a piece with the temperament and thoughts of a woman taking up arms for her country."Matthew Tiffany, The Kansas City Star"
The wiry, androgynous and mysterious Hoosier of Hunt's haunting novel Neverhome pushes through its pages like a spring crocus shoot....This is mystical, transcendent storytelling full of sun and shadows, memories and dreams, in a language and syntax from another time and place. Hunt...is an extraordinary, original writer."Jane Sumner, The Dallas Morning News"
Hunt effortlessly renders the cadences of the region and the times."Gina Webb, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A novel that takes us there and back again, "there" being the Civil War and back again, a farm in Indiana. Constance "Ash" Thompson and her husband, Bartholomew, are a young couple with a farm, though their roles are a bit inverted, for Ash is fearless and a crack shot while Bartholomew has bad vision and is much more timid. Ash feels strongly about supporting the Union cause, but one of them has to stay home and tend the crops and animals, so Ash enlists and passes for a male soldier. She narrates her adventures crisply and matter-of-factly as she goes through her slapdash basic training and soon finds herself at the Battle of Antietam. She becomes expert in carrying off her role as a man, spitting and cursing with the boys but also showing herself invaluable as a marksman (even when this only involves foraging for squirrels to make a stew). Eventually, Ash is betrayed by someone she thought she could trust, and she finds the battle is not the most difficult challenge she faces, for rumor has it that a "whore from Chattanooga" has been dressing up as a man and infiltrating Union lines. When she persuades an officer that she's neither a whore nor a spy, she's incarcerated in an asylum, for it's concluded that lunacy is the only other possible cause for her cross-dressing. After suffering abundant humiliations at the hands of a female "keeper," Ash cleverly (and ironically) escapes by switching clothes with a Union guard. By this time, she's determined to get home to Bartholomew—and she does—only to find that some local thugs have taken over the farm. Of course, she vows vengeance, though this revenge is exacted in a way that leads to tragedy. While comparisons to Cold Mountain are inevitable, Ash's journey has its own integrity. Hunt keeps the pace brisk and inserts some new feminist twists into the genre of the Civil War odyssey.
Hunt (Kind One; Ray of the Star) has written a particularly beautiful novel about Constance "Ash" Thompson, a woman who bravely sets out to fight, in place of her husband, in the Civil War. Having dealt with unbearable grief including the loss of her mother through suicide, Ash realizes her own strength as she courageously defends the Union with her male counterparts. Through her first-person perspective, we journey with this stoic, resilient, and hopeful protagonist who recognizes her own pain even as she is coping with the atrocities of battle. Hunt brings an especially bittersweet and lyrical tone to this forgotten part of Civil War history and gives voice to the several hundred women who did indeed make the momentous decision to fight. VERDICT Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed by this wonderful story of Ash's struggles with her identity and of her personal ties to the war. An amazing book. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]—Mariel Pachucki, Maple Valley, WA
- Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Meet the Author
Laird Hunt is the author of several works of fiction and a two-time finalist for the PEN Center USA Award in Fiction. A former United Nations press officer currently on the faculty of the University of Denver's creative writing program, he and his wife, the poet Eleni Sikelianos, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their daughter, Eva Grace.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The voice of Ash holds you in a spell from the beginning of this book. The voice is rich and spare, no words wasted. No sentiment. A vivid portrait of a difficult time in America seen through a woman's eyes. The chapters are short and the pages turn quickly, coming to a unexpected end. I think this short book would be a good choice for book clubs, there is a depth to this story, and it touches on many issues of gender and equality.
Given To Me For An Honest Review Laird Hunt's Neverhome is a page turner and a must read. It is a story about one woman's action during the Civil War. Constance changes her name to Ash Thompson, leaves her husband and farm to go off and join the Union Army in place of her husband. She faces transformation, kindness, cruelty and morality. After the war Ash returns home but Constance is not the same. What Ash lived and experienced truly changed Constance. Once you begin to read this book you will have a difficult time putting it down until you finish reading it. It is not a historical novel but it is so good. I recommend it to all and I look forward to more from Laird Hunt.
This is not your usual Civil War novel. The uses such beautiful language to descrbe the emotions and events.
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. 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 Contstance 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.