cover image Neverhome


Laird Hunt. Little, Brown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-37013-4

Following Kind One, Hunt returns to the 19th century to transform a footnote in history—the women who fought disguised as men in the Civil War—into a haunting meditation on the complexity of human character, the power of secrets, and the contradictions of the American experience. Saying that “he was made out of wool and I was made out of wire,” Constance Thompson leaves her husband Bartholomew to work their Indiana farm and enlists in the Union Army as Ash Thompson. Her strength, fortitude, and marksmanship serve her disguise well, and soldiering seems to offer some of the change she has craved. But the carnage inevitably takes its toll. Captured by bounty hunters, Constance must use both cunning and violence to escape. After an injury separates her from her unit, the nurse with whom she’s sheltered betrays her to the military authorities, and she is put in a madhouse. Though she finds her way back home, the war’s brutality has changed both her and the farm so much that familiar grounds offers no peace, only pain. Hunt’s characterization of Constance transcends simplistic distinctions between male and female, good and bad. The language of her narration is triumphant as well: sometimes blunt, sometimes visionary, and always fascinating. (Sept.)