A virgin child dreamed a woman's dreams in the lush, somnolent backwoods of Louisianna. In a year of war, sixteen-year-old Charlotte embarked on a mission of love, only to be set upon by three sodiers in training in a lonely, isolated section of the forest. And thus was a young life destroyed and remade, leaving Charlotte silent and alone, save for something that now grew inside of her. And nine months later when a babe was born--a demon in her eyes--Charlotte abandoned it to the elements, knowing she could never bear to look upon it.
Most wars eventually end. But some continue to rage internally.
Years later, in a world at peace, a friend's gift of pity brings Charlotte to a very special place in the woods. Every night, sad, damaged, overworked and unappreciated women make their way to the House of Gentle Men. Here they find the solace and chaste kindness they so desperately crave, administered by haunted men wishing to atone for the crimes in their pasts.
But Charlotte's past is alive within these welcoming walls. And her own sins and secrets impel her to consort with one--and only one--penitent soul whose accusing conscience has brought him here: a damaged man, no longer a soldier, who once joined two comrades to defile a teenage girl in the Louisiana wood.
A surreal but touching tale set in post World War II Louisiana. A glorious first novel that I think would be particularly enjoyable to explore in the context of a reading group.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune
Kathy Hepinstall, a skillful new voice in fiction, creates a house of pleasure that replaces lust with love in her debut novel, The House of Gentle Men. Hepinstall's dream-like tale is a distinctly feminine perspective on the consequences of romantic love. Men are doomed to hurt women and women are fated to be their only means of salvation. For a few tantalizing pages -- before the lurking evil elbows its way to the forefront -- one can rejoice in the fantasy that there is a magical place where the sexes overcome the unpredictable combustion of erotic love. Fresh and provocative, The House of Gentle Men shimmers with sensuous prose. Still, the novel's elusive characters may not be tangible enough to draw many readers all the way to its disturbing conclusion.
The Sun Herald
Kathy Hepinstall's first novel is as intriguing and lyrical as its title. The House of Gentle Men is a tale to savor, to ponder over, to go back to and reread passages for their sheer beauty and poetry. Set in rural Louisiana during and after World War II, the lush landscape of the novel matches the lushness of Hepinstall's creation of a world of sad, flawed but courageous characters seeking salvation through forgiveness.
In an assured first novel that demonstrates promising literary talent, Hepinstall gracefully explores issues of guilt, forgiveness, grace, and redemption.
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