Friday, September 5, 2014


Laird Hunt is the award-winning author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), and five novels from Coffee House Press: The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) Ray of the Star (2009) and Kind One (2012), which was a finalist for both the 2013 Pen/Faulkner award and the 2013 Pen USA Literary Award in Fiction and the winner of a 2013 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction.

Hunt applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Neverhome, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Neverhome my protagonist, Ash Thompson, and two of her comrades known only as “the Akron boys”, find themselves attending a strange ceremony in a town hard hit by the Civil War, in which locals clearly suffering a collective trauma are taking turns sitting in a chair and speaking some kind of truth to their fellows. As Ash and the Akron boys watch, a woman named Annie takes her place. She is by her own account not well thought of by the town but she has a secret: “I know how to find the places where the world won’t ever see me. I can walk in the shadow and I can walk in the light.” The Akron boys think she and the rest of the town are drunk, but Ash wants to listen. No doubt, she recognizes something of herself in this woman who has a secret (Ash after all is disguised as a man). In a way, this moment is a microcosm of the whole novel, which is narrated in the first person by Ash, and involves her telling her own deepest secrets. In a sense, she too can walk without being seen in shadow and walk without being seen in light. Of less generalized import but no less worth observing about this page 69 is that we are treated to a little of Ash’s colorful turn of phrase about a third of the way down. She says of Annie’s small voice that it is “About the size of a popcorn kernel only got heated halfway at the bottom of the pot.” Ash’s world is built up out of compressed but colorful sentences like that one.
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--Marshal Zeringue