The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis

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“And this man thus described met the shining soul of a woman who was to become my mother. Years would pass and life would be visited upon them, and its toll would be great.  His unquenchable thirst for all things would deliquesce like phantom smoke; her indomitable spirit would resurrect itself only in isolation, only as she galloped fiercely through the fields, a solitary knight in battle, with only herself to witness the courage. They were indeed doomed.  But this eventual destruction was foreseen by no one at the time.” 

This is a gorgeously written coming of age, it is heartbreaking and moving. The beauty of nature surrounds the reader, much like the family members and characters within. If I could, I would quote the very last lines because they are insightful, the core of what happens to a life, to any life be it a tree or a human being. This novel tells the story of Henry as he grows up in an Appalachian town, his father a literary dreamer that slowly withers as life’s miseries feed upon his dreams. His choice changes the lives of his wife and children, and seems senseless. As the story focuses on Henry, so to do we get glimpses into Henry senior (his father) and mother Eleonore’s origins.  Privy to the early courting of his parent’s, as with any of us, one cannot imagine how the tragedies of life will alter their love. His father, a misfit in his own town, within his own family, hungering for the fruits of knowledge, a higher education, and literary aspirations seems to have leaked his hungers unto his own son. Henry’s father counts on the strengths of his son, to rise out of his own shadow and be the man he couldn’t, to be the master of the life he hungered for. We understand why he was reluctant to be back in his birthplace and why Henry himself leaves and just can’t seem to return. But what and who Henry leaves behind is of great importance. Early in the story of his youth, my heart was seized by sadness for what happens to the family, like a wound that is never healed. I can’t imagine a reader not feeling tenderness for Threnody, Henry’s sister who is so very fragile and yet, somehow a force in the story too.  Everything that happens is a fray in the fabric of this family, everyone is affected differently, some appear to forge ahead while others wait back in the shadows, seemingly forgotten.

This beautiful novel will not be released until March of 2017, and to dissect it to it’s bones would ruin the telling. I will be revisiting each character and sharing more thoughts after it’s release. Until then, add this to your pile of highly anticipated novels in the New Year. It burrows inside of the reader, be prepared.

Publication Date: March 7, 2o17

Crown Publishing

Hogarth

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