"big-in-heart debut novel... poetic and evocative"
If you appreciate a sense of place and lush descriptions of the natural world (and, in this case, its devastating destruction by men in battle), FALLEN LAND by Taylor Brown is for you. I guarantee you won’t soon forget this slim-in-pages but big-in-heart debut novel.
I was on the trail with main characters Callum and Ava. I felt the branches scratching my face, felt the rough earth beneath me, the heat of a majestic horse’s hide, the bone-numbing cold. I sensed the panic as the bounty hunter and his men drew nearer. I felt the beauty of the land, despite the disfigurement caused at the cruel hand of man.
What’s more – if you love strong female protagonists, I’m not sure you’ll find a tougher-than-nails gal as Ava. (Incidentally, I just saw The Free State of Jones this weekend – also Civil War era – and was reminded of just how steeled and incredible these women were!) Brown brings wonderful life to Ava and Callum. They are real, flawed, and caught in a period of history with devastating circumstances for both “sides,” their families, and even the lands upon which they fight.
The land is a character in this book – deservingly so. Brown brings home this desolation and destruction with realistic and unapologetic, dark prose. I can still see the gaunt, shocked faces of people within the towns ransacked by Gen. Sherman’s men. I felt their desolation, their angular, malnourished cheeks poking holes in my own psyche.
An example of the destructive imagery:
“He rode a farm road that skated south between cotton fields. They were unharvested. Empty. The first quarter mile of split-rail fencing that bordered the road had been cannibalized for fuel by the army. Here or there lone timber rails littered the shoulder of the road. Endless streaks scored the dirt where rails had been dragged by man or mule for burning. Buzzards were up against the climbing sun. He cut east toward them along a lane double-rutted form wagon traffic. Cotton fields ended; an orchard began. It was scorched.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this telling of another piece of the American Civil War. The language was poetic and evocative, sparking the senses at every turn. I devoured the last 20 or so pages, so invested was I in the story of Callum and Ava. And Reiver, the horse… Oh Reiver…. I fell in love with you!
If you favor literary fiction, enjoy learning more about the Civil war, and are interested in a great love story, you need to read FALLEN LAND by Taylor Brown! I will definitely be picking up Brown’s upcoming book THE RIVER OF KINGS, publishing in the spring of 2017.
(A version of this article was published by Melissa Crytzer Fry at GoodReads on June 26, 2016. It is reposted here with the authors permission.)