man, i loved this book.
i wasn’t expecting much – there wasn’t any synopsis in my ARC, and the cover was giving off a total “christian fiction” vibe to me, but while religion definitely plays a role in the story, it is absolutely not a gentle, feel-good read.
i love thomas hardy. he’s probably my all-time favorite author. and this book is FULL of thomas hardy-ish situations. it’s got true love thwarted by circumstances, loveless marriages, people forced into marriage because of societal pressure, rape and secret paternity, the way that one mistake needs to be paid for over and over again, undiscovered notes, spirituality and nature, stubborn stubborn vows, mute suffering, and if gabriel isn’t an echo of father time (from Jude the Obscure), i will eat my hat.
plus, this has the added benefit of being set in coal country, which is like butter to my bread.
and as you can see in the description above, it opens with the death of one of a pair of twins. which, because of my fear and mistrust of twins, is further proof that this book was written specifically for me.
i don’t want to get into too many details, because i knew nothing about this book going into it, and it unfolded like a dream to my particular tastes, but just as another comparison note, myrthen in her most furious and destructive aspect reminded me a lot of Serena, another favorite-favorite book. this right here was perfect: Myrthen watched him, ruthless, her placid countenance inversely proportional to his agitation. She tucked away the creep of a smile into a bitten fold of cheek. View Spoiler »and OH GOD – i was so thrilled with that play on “ruthless” there – it was subtle perfection! later in the book, it is used again with all sorts of spotlights on it, which soured me a little, but that’s okay. some readers aren’t so keen on subtlety. and while we are complaining about tiny little things in seeecret spoiler-bubble, the last sentence of this book just seems off to me, tonally. it’s a little too “whee!” and was jarring after such a solemn book « Hide Spoiler
when part one transitioned into part two, i must confess, i lost some momentum. suddenly we were with different characters, further on in time, and it took me a little longer to care about these new people invading the story i had been loving so very much. for a while i thought it was headed towards this postmodern mirror-echo thang, which would have been spectacular, but i was wrong. i kept going despite these mild disappointments, and ended up being only slightly less engrossed than i had been with the first half. to me it was comfortably familiar, but not derivative, territory.
a lovely, mournful hymn – this book hit all my reader pleasure zones, all suffering, slightly magical, occasionally redemptive. if you are a reader who has similar tastes to me, this is going to rock your world.
two words: book. club.