Wednesday, July 8, 2015
One morning in Verra, a town nestled into the hillsides of West Virginia, the young Myrthen Bergmann is playing tug-of-war with her twin, when her sister is killed. Unable to accept her own guilt, Myrthen excludes herself from all forms of friendship and affection and begins a twisted, haunted life dedicated to God. Meanwhile, her neighbor Alta Krol longs to be an artist even as her days are taken up caring for her widowed father and siblings. Everything changes when Myrthen marries the man Alta loves. Fourteen years later, we meet Lidia, a teenage girl in the same town, and her precocious son, Gabriel. When Gabriel starts telling eerily prescient stories that hint at Verra’s long-buried secrets, it’s not long before the townspeople begin to suspect that the boy harbors evil spirits—an irresistible state of affairs for Myrthen and her obsession with salvation. -- Other Press
I am seriously kicking myself this morning. I read the wonderful novel WHISPER HOLLOW by Chris Cander a few months ago and just never got around to review it. (I am so behind on reviews that it's crazy!) This book deserved my immediate attention and I'm afraid that my delayed review won't do it justice.
WHISPER HOLLOW tells the story of two women, Myrthen and Alta. When Myrthen is a young child, her twin sister dies unexpectedly when they are rough-housing. Mirth can't get over the loss of her sister, along with her guilt; and she ends up becoming a loner and eventually devoting her life to God. Her neighbor Alta wants to be an artist, but she is forced to take care of her father and siblings. Myrthen marries the love of Alta's life, and these two women's lives are forever intertwined.
The book moves forward fourteen years and now focuses on Lidia, a teenage girl and her very bright son Gabriel. Gabriel is a prophet of sorts and his stories hint at many of the town's dark secrets. As the town begins to to fear and then turn on the boy, Myrthen and Alta find redemption for their pasts.
WHISPER HOLLOW is a beautifully written novel about love, loss, religion, and betrayal; and it's a pretty remarkable story. I was actually blown away by these characters and the complexities of their relationships. The novel demonstrates the difficulties associated with families and love, while at the same time showing the power of friendships. I absolutely loved it!
WHISPER HOLLOW takes place in a small coal-mining town in West Virginia, and it's probably the setting that most appealed to me. My grandfather was a coal-miner and I'm always drawn to stories that take place in these rural town. I thought Ms. Cander did an amazing job with bringing this town to life -- it actually became a character in its own right as far as I'm concerned.
Probably what I loved the most about this book, though, were the characters. They were brilliantly developed and offered so much food for thought. Myrthen wasn't exactly someone I always liked or agreed with; however, she was extremely complex and I almost understood her. Alta, on the other hand, was equally compelling and interesting but much more likable. I especially appreciated how these women's lives were tied together throughout the course of the novel.
Another wonderful thing about WHISPER HOLLOW was how the story was told. The author provided multiple points of view -- all equally well done, and she also managed to cover almost six decades of life in this small town. I loved seeing how the characters grew through the years and how their secrets came to light. It was a fascinating look at life in a small town and the different directions life can take.
Naturally, I'm going to recommend WHISPER HOLLOW to book clubs. The book is a terrific read and there is so much to discuss. Fortunately, there is a reading guide available with eight thought provoking questions. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, obligations, grief, loss, religion, friendship, the power of art, secrets, truth, and love and marriage. Trust me when I say that these women are extremely intriguing and could be talked about for hours.
WHISPER HOLLOW is a must-read! Highly recommended!
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.