Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Review: The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields
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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Summer of Night

Summer of Night

Summer of Night
By Dan Simmons
Griffin, Paperback, 9780312550677, July 2011, 498pp.

The Short of It:

A good story but not as scary as I had hoped it to be.

The Rest of It:

It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sun drenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. – from the publisher.

This book kept reminding me of the TV show Stranger Things. I think I mentioned the similarity no less than six times on social media.  Summer of Night is actually book #1 in a series. I was not aware of that when I started it, but it really works as a stand alone novel (in case anyone is interested).

Small towns can be creepy and this one comes complete with a “rendering truck” tearing-up stuff all around town. Just the idea of a truck filled with dead animals in various stages of decay is enough to make you cringe but to have a truck like that come after you? A pre-teen you? Terrifying.

Oh, and then there are dead people floating up to second story windows and holes that magically appear underneath beds with the sole purpose of pulling kids down into them. Like I said, scary stuff but as with most novels that center around young people, the young people band together and battle all that is evil and it makes for a good story.

But, it was slow in parts. REAL slow. Simmons like to write and this book is just under 500 pages but the pacing was a little uneven. Some parts were incredibly suspenseful and others functioned as set dressing but all in all, it was a good read. Maybe not the scariest book ever read… which is how it is noted on many horror lists but very good. I loved all of the characters. Simmons does a great job of developing each one.

Have you read it?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.