By Laird Hunt
ARC e-book, 256 pages (hardcover)
2014, Little, Brown and Company
Expected Publication Date: September 9, 2014
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Blurb from NetGalley: 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. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.
What I liked:
Overall, I enjoyed the plot or concept of this story, especially because it’s not my usual choice in a novel (ie: I mostly read sci-fi and fantasy). I don’t think I’ve read too many books set during the Civil War and definitely none have been from the perspective of a woman hiding out as a man and fighting for her country. The idea that Ash felt strongly enough about standing up against slavery to disguise herself as a man and go to war was very powerful. It’s also implied that she is the stronger one in the relationship – not to say that her husband is weak, more like he’s meek.
The imagery in this book was fantastic. Similar to when I read Nest, Hunt’s descriptions of Ash’s experiences and even her emotions gave me clear mental images. This book was very heavy in the feelings department too – it actually brought tears to my eyes. Probably not the best choice to read after Nest, another book that wasn’t so cheerful, and I feel like I’m now suffering from a book hangover. I need something light to cheer me up. But I always appreciate a book that moves me to tears (as long as they’re not tears of boredom or frustration!)
+ Vocabulary Alert +
bivouac – a temporary camp or shelter (…not sure why but I always thought this word had to do with going to the bathroom…glad I finally clarified!)
turpitude – a very evil quality or way of behaving
What I didn’t like:
While I enjoyed Hunt’s imagery, at times I was confused as to what Ash was experiencing – it was almost like reading a dream or a hallucination. Perhaps at times, I was supposed to feel lost, as Ash was, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed. I don’t like to read a few pages and say “huh?”
At the end of the book, it was revealed that Ash may be an unreliable narrator, so I then began to question everything I read. Having no way to know what she really experienced and what she may have “lied” about, I felt confused and as a result, I feel like I missed something. Maybe I missed the entire point of the novel? It’s possible. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read a lot of “deep” books and I think I tend to miss a lot of messages that way.
I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for Neverhome. This was a fairly quick read – I finished it in two days. So if you’re interested in the Civil War, especially from a female fighter’s perspective, give it a shot!
*cover image from Netgalley