Kevin Powers’ historical novel, A Shout in the Ruins, had me from the first paragraph. It’s not just that he told a gripping and heart-filled novel of my home state, Virginia, in the Civil War and mid-20th century eras. It’s also that Powers is an elemental writer who uses words to explosive effect, touching on the basics of human existence. He infuses his own experiences with war, (he is a veteran of the Iraq War), to explore the violence beyond the violence. And yet he sees enough cracks in the brazen heaven to hint at light, at least enough light to shout in the ruins.
A great Southern novel of race and memory, I said this about it in my review (which you can read in full by clicking on the title above):
There is a persistence to these characters that hints at something like redemption. Even the doomed Confederate deserters deliver an abandoned black child to a new home before heading off to face certain death. “‘One good thing still counts,’” the woman says in response to their act. “‘Now go.’ And so they did, their toes already into the water of what awaits us all.” (87)