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.
©2014 Laird Hunt (P)2014 Hachette Audio
"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)
"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)
"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)
There is much to admire about Neverhome: the lyrical prose, the sensitivity to women's issues, the message of war's dehumanizing influence, etc. The basic premise is that the young Thompsons feel an obligation to fight for the Union, but since Bartholomew is "too soft" and would likely end up killed, Constance dresses as a man, takes the name of Ash, and signs up. It's a situation not unheard of, though most women disguised as male to accompany their husbands into battle. "Gallant Ash" is an expert rifleman and soon learns to kill with no remorse. There's a horrific scene in which she "disguises" as a woman and enters a cabin to bash in one man's head with a jug and shoot his companions in the head--and this is the first of many such incidents. In letters home to Bartholomew, we learn how they fell in love; and we suspect that her inability to give birth to a child caused an estrangement--a sense of personal failure--that hastened her march to war. In time, Ash's true gender is discovered, and she is confined to a mental asylum. By then, this reader had begun to wonder if there was more than the "craziness" of a woman going to war that put here there: Ash has come across as a disturbed person through a series of surrealistic dreams and conversations with her dead mother, not to mention some questionable decisions and actions. As others have mentioned, the novel's conclusion isn't the happy, expected one, but its disturbing nature is a fitting end to the bitter cruelty that Constance/Ash has suffered and caused.
What I found somewhat annoying was that I never got a clear sense of exactly WHY Constance felt the need to go to war, and it didn't make a lot of sense when I started asking myself questions, like how did Bartholomew get out of being conscripted, and how he managed the farm on his own if he was such a weakling, and why his neighbors didn't question where his wife had gone. So for me, this book ended up as an interesting psychological study of one character and a devastating look at the effects of war.
An interesting and well written story about "Ash" Thompson, a female who fights (disguised as a man) in the Civil War. The prose is lyrical without being overly descriptive, and the narration is spot-on.
The Book Snob for Paris Life Magazine.
Alright, when you get a true American Story that is an Odyssey journey, you must know that the story is in the journey. This book had a powerful premise but in the end it was just interesting and leaves me unsure. I didn't love it like I did Cold Mountain. Now, I know that many people hated Cold Mountain, but again, its an Odyssey. I think the love story and growth of both characters in Cold Mountain captured me there, but they fall short for me in this book. I have a feeling that I was supposed to get something else out of this book, but it has alluded me. Still, it was well written, just not a home run.
Listened to the audio book and it was a very intertwining "read". My interest was held through out and the narrative was outstanding. The story gives me pause to imagine how it was for the brave shoulders of that war and the loss that was endured. Well worth my time.
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