The Barrowfields

Phillip Lewis. Random/Hogarth, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-0-451-49564-8
In this charming, absorbing, and assured debut novel, a young man tries to make sense of his father’s life and the passions that unite them—namely, a devotion to literature and a rueful nostalgia for their Appalachian homeland. In the novel’s sweeping opening, the narrator, Henry Aster, describes how his father, also named Henry, briefly escaped his hometown of Old Buckram, N.C., to attend college and pursue soaring literary ambitions, convinced that “inside him was something magnificent.” After marrying and gaining a law degree, though, the elder Henry learned that his mother is ill, and he returned to Old Buckram, where, following a bout of professional success, he bought a sinister-looking hilltop mansion known as “the vulture house.” There, he raised his family and toiled away endlessly on a mysterious, Casaubon-esque work of literature. Younger Henry relates all this years later, sometime in the ’90s, after having followed a very similar trajectory: he too, after gaining a law degree, has found himself back in Old Buckram. But his father is gone, the rest of his family is in shambles, and his girlfriend—the aptly if cutely named Story—has her own family problems to sort out. Lewis evokes his settings beautifully, and his prose is bracingly erudite. This debut has the ability to fully immerse its readers. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2017
Release date: 03/07/2017
Audio Product - 978-0-451-49566-2
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