Summary and book reviews of Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Neverhome

A Novel

by Laird Hunt

Neverhome
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2015, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

ONE

I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic. I stepped across the border out of Indiana into Ohio. Twenty dollars, two salt-pork sandwiches, and I took jerky, biscuits, six old apples, fresh underthings, and a blanket too. There was a heat in the air so I walked in my shirtsleeves with my hat pulled low. I wasn't the only one looking to enlist and by and by we had ourselves a band. Farm folk cheered as we went by. Gave us food. Their best shade to stop in. Played to us on their fiddles. Everything you've heard about from the early days, even though it had already been a year since Fort Sumter, and there had already been the First Bull Run, and Shiloh had stole off its souls, and the early days were done and dead and gone.

The tenth or eleventh night on the road we drank whiskey and hollered under the stars. There was a running race. Knife throwing. Cracker-swallowing contest. Feats of strength. One of the boys tried to arm wrestle me ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. From the opening sentence, we know that the narrator chooses to fight in the Civil War instead of her husband. By the end of the novel, we recognize there may be several different reasons for her choice. What was her greatest motivation for leaving? What do you believe Ash herself believes about her choice?
  2. Discuss the role of men in Ash's life, both before and during the War.
  3. Why do you believe the Colonel takes such a particular interest in Ash? Discuss the squirrel-hunting, the battle midway through the novel with the Colonel's kinsman, and the visit in the psychiatric hospital, in particular.
  4. How does Neverhome change your understanding of the Civil War?
  5. Discuss the various transformations of Ash's personality over ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Neverhome will likely find a wide audience among those who read historical fiction, and its accuracy is sure to please history purists and aficionados of Civil War fiction. In Constance, Hunt has created an inimitable and unforgettable heroine who will have broad appeal, and her story will likely touch many.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (576 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The language of her narration is triumphant...sometimes blunt, sometimes visionary, and always fascinating.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. "Hunt keeps the pace brisk and inserts some new feminist twists into the genre of the Civil War odyssey."

Author Blurb Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds
Laird Hunt's new novel is a beguiling and evocative story about love and loss, duty and deceit. Through the assured voice of his narrator and the subtle beauty of his writing, Neverhome took me on a journey so thoroughly engrossed that there were times the pages seemed to turn themselves.

Author Blurb Paul Auster, author of The New York Trilogy and Report from the Interior
A spare, beautiful novel, so deeply about America and the language of America that its sentences seem to rise up from the earth itself. Laird Hunt had me under his spell from the first word of Neverhome to the last. Magnificent.

Author Blurb Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
The Civil War has given us so many great literary works that I couldn't have imagined a new fictional approach that was both stunningly original and yet utterly natural, even inevitable. But this is just what Laird Hunt brilliantly delivers in his new novel...Neverhome is masterful work by one of our finest writers.

Author Blurb Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
In fiercely gorgeous prose, Laird Hunt's Neverhome traces the mesmerizing odyssey of a singular woman, who stretches and shimmers from these pages, and stakes a piercing claim on our hearts. You won't soon forget Ash Thompson's voice or this astonishing novel.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Neverhome
Over four hundred women fought on both sides of the Civil War. This is a story about one of the woman, Constance, who leaves her husband to take care of their farm in Indiana and goes off to fight for the Union. In a short number of pages we ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Women In the U.S. Civil War

Historians have documented some 400 cases of women serving as men in the American Civil War (see our review and Beyond the Book for Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy).

Motives for their enlistment varied widely, although it would seem that most enlisted to stay with family; many were concerned that their husband, father, brother or son would die in the conflict and remain unknown or unburied. Some chose to adopt an assumed identity out of patriotism or on moral grounds, as slavery was often deemed offensive to God or, on the other side of the conflict, to be God's intention. One young woman from Brooklyn named Emily believed she was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc and so joined up in the heat of religious fervor. Economics was also a ...

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