Excerpt from Southernmost by Silas House, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Silas House

Southernmost by Silas House X
Southernmost by Silas House
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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They watched a trailer home being swept away, the roof of a house, a pickup truck. Cows struggling to stay afloat. "Oh no! Asher!" Zelda said at that, as if he might be able to dive in and help the cattle find higher ground, but they both knew there was nothing to be done. So many trees, all with the lush full leaves of late June. Chickens sitting in a calm line down the length of a white church steeple. It must have been swept from far up the river as it wasn't familiar to him; he knew by heart the looks of every church nearby.

Asher saw the brick walls of a house collapse and then the roof was swept down the widening Cumberland while two men stood on the hill, watching. He knew the house had only recently been built by a songwriter from Nashville. He hadn't lived in there more than a couple months and now the house was altogether gone. Asher kept driving. He had to get back to make sure their house was still high above the water line, to see that Justin was all right.

And there he was, waiting right on the porch for them. Justin leaned against the banister with his arms crossed. Still miffed because Asher had not let him go along, not knowing how dangerous the roads would be. He was eight, but small for his age, and more like an old man in his bearing and thinking. Just as they pulled in, Lydia stepped out of the front door as if she had been watching at the window and went to put her arm around Justin's neck, but he scrambled away from her, running out to greet his granny.

* * *

Theirs was one of the lucky houses, situated on the ridge where the water couldn't reach them, although the river was far too close to put Asher at ease. The last flood had destroyed so much, but it had not threatened them. This one was licking awfully close and if the rain kept falling the Cumberland would have no choice but to keep rising until the water was seeping into their home. His church had been built on the highest point in those parts more than a hundred years before. But many in his congregation would be homeless. Some of them had only recently rebuilt from the last flood. He had no idea how he would handle all the care they would need.

Throughout the day Zelda and Lydia watched the useless television news while Asher and Justin watched the river rise, watched the rain fall. Justin would not leave his side.

"Are we gonna be okay?" he asked, his green eyes latched on to Asher's green eyes.

"Yes, buddy," Asher said, his hand capped over his son's head. "Don't you worry."

But Asher was worried.

Even worse than the rising water, even worse than the fact that he had not heard one siren or seen one helicopter or any sign of help from the government (they were alone out here, then, he realized, until the storm was over; help from the law always came after it was needed), even worse than when the electricity blinked out of being, even worse than Lydia doing nothing but praying in the shadowy cave of her room — was that they couldn't find Roscoe anywhere.

Asher stood in the doorway until Lydia said her quiet "Amen" then told her he was going out to look for the dog again. Although it was early afternoon her room was very dark; she hadn't opened the curtains. He could barely see her as she knelt beside the bed. Just when he was about to say that he was leaving he could make out that she had extended her hand toward him. "Won't you come here and pray with me?" she said.

He stepped into the shadows with hesitation; he wanted to tell her that faith without works is dead, that God doesn't hear those kinds of prayers. He knelt beside her at the bed and felt foolish in doing so. She had already bowed her head but now she laid her hand palm-up atop the bedspread. When he didn't respond right away she turned to look at him.

"What is it?" she whispered.

He intertwined his fingers with hers and bowed his head. She followed suit, the words trembling quietly on her lips: "Lord, we come to you to ask that you help our little dog . . ." In their tradition he was expected to say his own prayer aloud as well, their words mingling into a sort of woven chant. But he didn't pray aloud. He kept his head bowed and felt her sweaty hand in his own and all while she pleaded with God he could only think Please please please. That was the only kind of invocation he possessed now.

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Excerpted from Southernmost by Silas House. Copyright © 2018 by Silas House. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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