A Shout in the Ruins

A Shout in the Ruins

by Kevin Powers


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Set in Virginia during the Civil War and a century beyond, this novel by the award-winning author of The Yellow Birds explores the brutal legacy of violence and exploitation in American society.

"A masterpiece. Powers has written a novel that includes all the ferocity, complexity, and racial violence of the American South" --- Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust
Spanning over one hundred years, from the antebellum era to the 1980's, A Shout in the Ruins examines the fates of the inhabitants of Beauvais Plantation outside of Richmond, Virginia. When war arrives, the master of Beauvais, Anthony Levallios, foresees that dominion in a new America will be measured not in acres of tobacco under cultivation by his slaves, but in industry and capital. A grievously wounded Confederate veteran loses his grip on a world he no longer understands, and his daughter finds herself married to Levallois, an arrangement that feels little better than imprisonment. And two people enslaved at Beauvais plantation, Nurse and Rawls, overcome impossible odds to be together, only to find that the promise of coming freedom may not be something they will live to see.

Seamlessly interwoven is the story of George Seldom, a man orphaned by the storm of the Civil War, looking back from the 1950s on the void where his childhood ought to have been. Watching the government destroy his neighborhood to build a stretch of interstate highway through Richmond, he travels south in an attempt to recover his true origins. With the help of a young woman named Lottie, he goes in search of the place he once called home, all the while reckoning with the more than 90 years he lived as witness to so much that changed during the 20th century, and so much that didn't. As we then watch Lottie grapple with life's disappointments and joys in the 1980's, now in her own middle-age, the questions remain: How do we live in a world built on the suffering of others? And can love exist in a place where for 400 years violence has been the strongest form of intimacy?

Written with the same emotional intensity, harrowing realism, and poetic precision that made THE YELLOW BIRDS one of the most celebrated novels of the past decade, A SHOUT IN THE RUINS cements Powers' place in the forefront of American letters and demands that we reckon with the moral weight of our troubling history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316556477
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 482,285
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Kevin Powers is the author of The Yellow Birds, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Guardian First Book Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist, as well as Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, a collection of poetry. He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in Poetry. He served in the US Army in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq, where he was deployed as a machine gunner in Mosul and Tal Afar.

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A Shout in the Ruins 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
jmchshannon More than 1 year ago
As a story about the individuals on a plantation affected by the Civil War, A Shout in the Ruins is a decent novel. The individual stories are interesting, if not necessarily new, and the characters have enough development to become more than one-dimensional. It becomes easy to imagine that their stories occurring hundreds of years ago. Honestly, they probably have in some form or another. As a novel trying to get you to contemplate life and love amidst a history of violence, A Shout in the Ruins is lacking. There is an absence of continuity between the various time periods that is disruptive. The interrupted flow of the story diminishes any lessons one might obtain from the characters' insights. In addition, there is a heavy-handedness to these lessons which is somewhat repellent. You want these personal insights to be a natural part of the novel. Instead, Mr. Powers all but force feeds them to you. In doing so, he loses you as a reader, and you end up skimming exactly those points he so desperately wants you to read. You are left wondering whether there is anything original in A Shout in the Ruins worth evaluating. After all, there are numerous stories about slaves and their plantation owners already in existence. There is no need for yet one more novel, written by a white man, about this time period. Mr. Powers offers nothing new in the way of insight or historical fact, and his lessons about love and violence and the Civil War era plantation life feel wrong given his ethnicity. The only reason I stayed with the story is that I grew to like the characters, particularly Nurse, Rawls, and George. I wanted to see how they fared in the end, hoping it was not going to end like so many other slavery/black man stories. I remained pleasantly surprised by their stories and the details within them. Thus, as a novel of historical fiction, A Shout in the Ruins is decent It is well-written with developed characters that play on your sympathies and keep your interest. It is only when the novel attempts to become literary fiction where it loses you. Its attempts to provide life lessons the author should not be providing leave you more confused than anything, and the obviousness of these lessons makes you resent and skip them, further compounding the confusion. It is a shame actually that Mr. Powers chose not to stick with straight historical fiction. The novel would be much stronger had he done so.
Thebooktrail-com More than 1 year ago
An epic and all encompassing read. It takes place over many many years from before the Civil war in 1865 leading up to 1980s. There’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of characters to keep track of. But this author is not afraid of a challenge. It’s a novel of shadows – black, white and lots of shades of gray – there’s several voices all at one – speaking and trying to get their point across which is often hard to separate. But on another note, this technique does translate the confusion of war well. The landscape, the violence, the rawness and the breathtaking passion of those who live there is amazing to read. The truth of slavery and inhumane behaviour , less so. But it’s like a sketch on a wall – too large to appreciate in its entirety and it would have been good to spend time with one character at a time for longer period. The cruelty and hopeless of the Civil war comes through loud and clear but I I think a simpler timeline with less voices would have made even the whispers of the message a lot more powerful.