A Shout in the Ruins

Kevin Powers. Little, Brown, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-55647-7
This inconsistent follow-up to Powers’s PEN/Hemingway Award–winning The Yellow Birds traces the destructive legacy of slavery from the 19th century to the recent past. The first of the novel’s two main story lines centers on the Beauvais Plantation, contrasting the loveless marriage of its white owners, the young Emily Reid and the volatile Antony Levallois, with the profound connection between two of their slaves, Rawls and Nurse. The affecting second story line, set in 1950s Richmond, Va., concerns 90-year-old George Seldom, the child born of Levallois raping Nurse. Powers strikes a fine balance between the two narratives; less successful, though, are the tangential investigations into the lives of a union officer overseeing Reconstruction, Tom Fitzgerald, and a diner waitress whom George befriends, Lottie Moore. These sections feel like unnecessary padding that softens the impact of the novel as a whole. Emily, Rawls, and Nurse eventually have their violent confrontation with Levallois and make their respective flights from Beauvais, but the resolutions that the book then offers are either too coincidental, cheaply tragic, or vague. The reader is left with a shout that enervates more than it inspires. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge and White. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 05/15/2018
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4789-7534-2
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-316-52314-1
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