By Phillip Lewis
Hogarth Press, Hardcover, 9780451495648, March 2017, 368pp.
The Short of It:
A father and son story but really a story about family relationships and what it means to come home.
The Rest of It:
Henry Aster’s father returns to the small Appalachian town where he grew up and moves his family into a house with a past. The dark, immense home was once the scene of a grisly murder involving young children. Its looming presence foreshadowing the unraveling of the family to come.
From the description it sounds like a ghost story and maybe it is but not the kind you’d be expecting. This story focuses on the relationship between father and son, missed-opportunities, and at its heart, how we process grief and loss.
After a terrible loss, Henry’s father, a brilliant man trying to reinvent himself as a writer, struggles with what he’s been dealt. The entire family struggles with him but in different ways. Instead of coming together, they push each other away and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to witness.
There is a lot of good to be had in this novel. The writing is lovely but the Asters are readers so there are plenty of literary references that I jotted down. I love when books mention other books. But what I really loved was the slow build of what eventually causes the family to fall apart. There is a lot of tension in this novel which made the page turns go that much faster.
However, one section of the novel strayed from the main story which seemed a little out of left field but I was very happy to see how it fit into the story as a whole once I got to the end of the book. The final pages are gold. I reread them many times and loved them to pieces.
One of my favorite books of all time is A Separate Peace by John Knowles and although The Barrowfields is nothing like that book in story, the “coming-of-age” aspect of this novel reminds me a lot of A Separate Peace and yes, maybe even the main character reminds me of it, too.
I say, read it.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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