Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Come In and Cover Me

Summary: When Ren was only twelve years old, she lost her older brother, Scott, to a car crash. Since then, Scott has been a presence in her life, appearing as a snatch of song or a reflection in the moonlight. Now, twenty-five years later, her talent for connecting with the ghosts around her has made her especially sensitive as an archaeologist. More than just understanding the bare outline of how our ancestors lived, Ren is dedicated to re-creating lives and stories, to breathing life into those who occupied this world long before us. Now she is on the cusp of the most important discovery of her career, and it is ghosts who are guiding her way. But what do two long-dead Mimbres women have to tell Ren about herself? And what message do they have about her developing relationship with a fellow archaeologist, the first man to really know her since her brother's death? Come In and Cover Me is the moving story of a woman learning to let go of the past in order to move forward with her own future. 

Written with the same warmth and depth of feeling that drew readers to The Well and the Mine, Phillips's debut, Come In and Cover Me is a haunting and engrossing new novel. -- Riverhead

I'm not usually a big fan of ghost stories (or anything else supernatural), but I was drawn to the description of
COME IN AND COVER ME by Gin Phillips. Plus I had heard some great things about Ms. Phillips writing and especially this book. Since I also find anything related to archaeology to be interesting, I figured why not give this book a try? I told myself that the ghost aspect of the story could be okay for me if it was done really well, but for some reason, I was still slightly reluctant.

And I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but this one didn't appeal to me at all. After reading this book, I realized why this particular cover was chosen (and it is very appropriate to some of the novel's themes), but I can honestly say that I wouldn't have looked twice at this book if it were on a store's shelves.

Maybe it was my initial negative attitude, but I didn't love COME IN AND COVER ME. I discovered that I did like COME IN AND COVER ME, but I wasn't blown away by this novel like some readers. There were parts of this novel that were really, really good; and then there were other parts that I just didn't appreciate quite as much. COME IN AND COVER ME had a very unique premise and I most definitely appreciated that. It was part ghost story, part archaeological history, part romance, and part self-discovery; and it had a very interesting (and complex) character in Ren.

I've been trying to put my finger on why this book didn't work as well for me as I had hoped, and I can honestly say that it wasn't because of the ghost story -- I actually enjoyed that part a great deal. I think one of my issues is that I felt as if the novel were a little disjointed. The writer used a variety of flashback scenes to explain both Ren's past as well as the Mibres women's stories, and I am torn as to how effective they were. On one hand, I appreciated getting the backgrounds of the characters and they flashbacks did work to move the story along; however, I also felt that there was a lot of jumping around with the different stories.
Having said that, I still enjoyed COME IN AND COVER ME, and there were a lot of positives to this novel. First and foremost, I was extremely impressed with just how unique the story was. I can honestly say that I've never read a book quite like this one and it was interesting to see how the different storylines came together. I also discovered that Gin Phillips is a quality writer and I thought her prose was a treat to read. I liked Ms. Phillips' character development, especially of Ren; and even though I didn't always love Ren, I still found her thoughts and actions to be fascinating.

Another thing I truly appreciated about this novel was that I learned a great deal about an ancient civilization. Since Ren was on an archaeological dig and studied the Mibres, there was a great deal of information about this culture. I had never even heard of the Mibres prior to reading COME IN AND COVER ME; and as a result, I found so much of this story to be interesting. It's apparent that Ms. Phillips did a tremendous amount of research to write this novel.

COME IN AND COVER ME would make a very good book club pick. Because Ren is so complex, a group could spend an entire evening just dissecting her emotional baggage. There is a reading guide available which poses some fantastic questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include the study of other civilizations, grief, female companionship, parent/child relationships, the past, communities, and love. You can also talk about the use of ghosts as metaphors in this story as well as the role of storytelling in different societies.

I am really torn on my feelings about COME IN AND COVER ME. I liked many aspects of the story, but for some reason, I just didn't love it. I do think I'm probably in the minority on this one, and therefore, I recommend it to fans of women's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I have seen a lot of raves for this book, so I want to give it a try. You've made me really curious about the cover.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I like the idea of having some kind of gift that can be used to assist in archaeology (a job that I think half of all humans have had an infatuation with at one point or another). But Julie you are not the first review I've read to have issues. I do appreciate your honestly, because there are just too many other books out there needing my attention.

Marion said...

I saw this in a book shop just the other day, looked and said to myself,this is a kids book, its in the wrong place. I`m now intigued and will pick up a copy.

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

I agree with your review Julie, I think the part that made it blah for me was her relationship with Silas. It just seemed predictable.

Serena said...

Sounds like an interesting idea...but the disjointed narrative was not the appropriate way to tell it or maybe it just wasn't the best choice. I think the idea of this book is interesting and may give it a try at some point.

Jenny Girl said...

Archaeology and ghosts...I'm sold.

I appreciate your honest review Julie. It can be hard to put our finger on why certain books or characters don't appeal to us as readers. Maybe there shouldn't always be a reason why. It just is.
I have been having trouble with female characters lately, and wondering if I'm too picky. Glad to see I"m not alone in having issues with books :)