Sunday, January 4, 2015

'Black Dog Summer'

A fairly large stack of advance reading copies was sitting next to my coffee table.  The pile grew smaller as I plowed through each and every book.  When I got near the bottom, I found a story that I really wish I had placed on top. Because it deserved to be on top.  It deserved my attention.

And it really received it.  A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook page the fact that I had been reading it in the bathtub, and *gasp!* dropped it in the water (I had a hard day at work, so I was really tired).  Not a few pages got wet.  Oh, no.  The whole book was soaked.  Because this story was so intriguing, I actually spent an enormous amount of time blow-drying each page.  Now, that's devotion.

Three books have really stayed in my mind over the years; 'The Lovely Bones', 'Little Bee', and 'The Mercy of Thin Air'.  I can now add another one:  'Black Dog Summer'.

Of course, a ghost in involved.  And, of course, she died in a most tragic way (when is death not tragic?).  

'Black Dog Summer', written by the talented Miranda Sherry, immediately demanded my attention in the best way possible:  Incredible writing.  

A farmstead massacre in the South African bush sets the stage for a story of stunning clarity.  Thirty-eight-year-old Sally, one of the victims, narrates this story from her spot in the afterlife as she observes Gigi, the daughter she left behind.  She also watches her sister, Adele, and Liam, her brother-in-law and unrequited love.  Included in her observation is her niece Bryony and nephew, Tyler.  As hard as she tries to make contact with her family, the only one who can see her is the neighbor, Lesedi, a reluctant witchdoctor who hides her mystical connection with the dead from her neighbors in their upscale, gated community.

Gigi has fallen into her grief, refusing to speak and interact with her new family.  Bryony is resentful of Gigi's intrusion.  Adele, who had pushed Sally out of her life, now regrets her actions, and tries to communicate with her niece.  And all the while, Sally is floating through their universe, worrying all the while and desperate to tell them of the darkness looming overhead.  

I can't do justice to this story via my review.  It's startling, and some chapters almost left me breathless as I learned more about the aftereffects of the massacre.  

Sherry has a powerful voice, and her stark, simple writing and the devotion to character development places this story on my list of cherished books.  It is one I'll go back to, again and again.  

Author Miranda Sherry
It's heartbreaking and mysterious.  Full of regrets, full of chances not taken.  Full of something that I can relate to:  The love of a mother for her daughter.  It hit me in the gut.

This poignant story makes me wonder if we all do survive our deaths.  Is the one who left me floating overhead, subtly telling me to read each and every book that is offered and to pay attention to the lessons they give us?

Nope.  All I hear is, "Stop reading them in the bath tub!"

'Black Dog Summer', by Miranda Sherry, will be published by Atria Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) on February 10, 2015.  You will be able to find it at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  Book Hog thanks the publisher for this incredible story!

1 comment:

Don Lentz said...