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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The rain had been falling with a pounding meanness, without ceasing for two days, and then the water rose all at once in the middle of the night, a brutal rush so fast Asher thought at first a dam might have broken somewhere upstream. The ground had simply become so saturated it could not hold any more water. All the creeks were conspiring down the ridges until they washed out into the Cumberland. There was no use in anyone going to bed because they all knew what was going to happen. They only had to wait.

The day dawned without any sign of sun — a sky that groaned open from a black night to a dull, purpling gray of morning — and Asher went out to walk the ridge and get a full eye on the situation. The news wasn't telling them anything worthwhile. He could hear the flood before he reached the top of the ridge. There he saw the massively swollen river supping at the edges of the lower fields, ten feet above its own banks, a foamy broth climbing so steadily he could actually see its ascent, and then he knew he had to go get Zelda.

They had all thought the last flood was as bad as things could get but the water hadn't risen half this quickly. He maneuvered his Jeep across two bridges whose undersides were being caressed by the river and by the time he got to her house the water was nipping at her porch. He had to park on the rise at the top of her driveway and wade into waist-deep water that took his breath with its iciness. Zelda stood on the porch like a statue of an old woman clutching a stack of picture albums. That was all she had grabbed.

"Come on!" Asher hollered. The river raged so loudly he wasn't sure if she could hear him and she made no motion to acknowledge she had.

But then Zelda took a step forward and froze; he could see she was terrified. Zelda had been on this very porch the first time he ever met her. She had risen from her chair to embrace him, holding him the way his own mother never had. Another memory, too: they had gone wading in the Cumberland on the hottest day of the year. "You're like a son to me," she had said, gathering her yellow dress tail in one hand so it wouldn't get wet, and he had realized then that had been one of the main reasons he had married Lydia: to have a mother, to have arms around him to let him know he mattered.

The muck sucked at Asher's legs as he offered his hand to help Zelda off the porch. He fought with his feet to keep from going any deeper. Finally she reached out, resigned to silence because of the swollen river's roar. He pulled her toward him and latched his arm around her waist as they made their way back up to the rise where he had left the Jeep. Her body was hot and doughy to his touch. She sank in the mud and he had to pull her along and then carry her in some places. Butterscotch-colored water frothed around their legs, filled with tree limbs and garbage and all manner of debris they had to dodge. He helped her up into the vehicle and her fingers trembled in his grip.

Still the rain was falling in a torrent, washing across his windshield in a violence of nature he had never before witnessed. He had never seen it rain so hard, ever, and certainly not for this long.

Asher knew he shouldn't drive through the water overtaking the first bridge, but they made it. The vehicle coughed up the hill, the engine choked with river but managing to recover just before it sputtered out. By the time they reached the second bridge it had disappeared beneath a pasture that had become a lake. Asher knew the land well so he switched back around and pulled onto the railroad tracks where they racketed along — the Jeep shaking like it might fall apart, Zelda letting out little yelps every once in a while — until they had reached the road to his house. The whole valley was under water. From where they drove along the ridgeline they could look down and see it all spread out before them like the end of time had come to Cumberland Valley.

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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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