What I love about NetGalley is that I can take a chance on new (or new to me) authors and discover books I might not otherwise encounter. (Do you love books? Do you write reviews? Check out www.netgalley.com.) That was the case with Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown (St. Martin’s Press, 3/18).
So many things are done well in this book, but I’ll start with the atmospheric setting. When I read a book, I want to feel like I’m there. I want to be able to picture the topography, the vegetation, the weather; I want to understand the era through the clothes and cars and tools and technology. Brown does this on just about every page – I never forget it’s the 1950s, and that Howl Mountain (in North Carolina) is the setting of a whiskey-running empire at a time when the federal government (the revenuers) are cracking down—and looking for their share of the pie. There’s Granny, the local medicine woman who knows just where to dig the roots for her potions; there’s the snake-handling church that meets in the old service station, the weekend car races; there’s Rory Docherty, back from the Korean War with a wooden leg.
Reading this book feels a bit like taking a master-class in characterization and plot. The characters are clearly drawn; their wants and decisions and choices bump up against each other in ways that continually move the plot forward.
My thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for this delicious find.
Also, this week, I finished I Liked by Life by Abby Fabiaschi (St. Martin’s Press, 1/17)—an audio read that kept me going on my weekly commute.
The short take: In the first third of the book, I was trying to decide if I hated all of the characters and if I should just switch back to the next installment of the Charles Lennox series by Charles Finch, which has quickly become my go-to. But, I stuck with it and was more than rewarded. In fact, by the time I was in the final fifteen minutes of the story, I was a happy, sobbing mess.
Fabiaschi tells the story of a Massachusetts family in the aftermath of (wife, mother) Maddie’s suicide, with workaholic husband Brady and typical self-centered teenager Eve coming to some hard realizations about themselves. The story is also multi-generational, asking tough questions about the impact of family and upbringing, and whether we’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of others.
The audio is really good on this one, too.
Paula Treick DeBoard