Southernmost, by Silas House

key west

In Southernmost, Kentucky author (and treasure) Silas House creates a road trip, family drama, and mediation on the disparity between modern Christianity and its most rigid adherents. He begins with a flood in Tennessee, and a family on the brink.

Asher is the pastor of a small church in a small community. At the height of the flood, his son Justin disappears in search of his dog and Asher, Justin, and two other men help rescue a father and daughter. When Asher invites the men into his home, Asher’s wife Lydia objects.

“Did those men leave?”

“No,” Asher said. “They’re putting on some dry clothes.”

“We can’t have them in here, Asher,” she said quietly.

“They don’t have anywhere else to go,” Asher whispered. “We’re the lucky ones.”

“What would the congregation say? It’s not right — “

“Not right to help people in trouble?”

“I know who they are,” she said. “They’re — you know what they are, Asher. We can’t have them in here around Justin.”

Asher has dealt with this dilemma before: his brotherLuke  left Asher’s own birth family years earlier, unwelcome due to his own sexuality. For years, Asher has missed his brother but accepted his absence as the way things ought to be, never divulging that he occasionally receives an unsigned postcard from Key West, Florida.

gator

Ten years without his brother. He thought of their mother sitting at the yellow kitchen table while Luke danced across the red linoleum. Asher was laughing and clapping — only twelve, Luke four years older. Their mother’s mouth clenched into a wrinkled line, like a pink drawstring purse. . . . .

Their mother darted up quick as a spider, snapped off the radio in one sharp click of her wrist.

The word she had said to Luke then.

(faggot)

Luke ran from the room, from the house, down to the willow-shadowy banks of the Cumberland, where Asher found him later, watching the river.

Near the beginning of the novel (just so you know I’m not giving away the ending), Asher undergoes a Road to Damascus change. He welcomes the gay couple to his church and then his position there is terminated, his wife Lydia throws him out, sues for divorce, and tries to take all visits with Justin away. Asher feels he has no option but to take the boy and run.

The descriptions of Silas House’s work tend to include words like “masterful,” “redolent and rich,” “poetic,” and “haunting.” In an interview with novelist Jeff Zentner for the Parnassus’ book store blog, musings, House discussed how he came to this particular topic at this time:

When I was little, our home was quickly overtaken by a flood and we barely escaped. So I had personal experience, and I knew the way an event like that can impact you spiritually and physically. When the 2010 flood hit, I heard a preacher on the radio saying it was the wrath of God because of “accepting gays.” I had already created this character who I knew was going to make a principled stand for equality and as soon as I heard that, I knew I had the impetus for the entire novel. So mine is a fictionalized version of that flood that I’ve moved to 2015 to coincide with the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. I loved working against such a dramatic backdrop to begin the novel.

https://parnassusmusing.net/2018/06/07/silas-house/

southernmostSouthernmost is a powerful work that offers chewy discussion on themes of family, redemption, morality, choice, love. If your book club has a diversity of political viewpoints, it may be a volatile fuse. I personally think that’s a good thing, and that’s what discussion is for.

 

 

Food

In the interview with Parnassus, House discusses the use of food in his work: “I always strive to make my writing as sensory as I can and few things do that as well as food. And we have such a strong cultural attachment to food — I mean, I’ve seen arguments bordering on violence about whether or not cornbread should or should not have sugar in it. (For the record, I say no.)” Interestingly, the Parnassus blog spells cornbread as one word; in the novel, Silas House spells it as two.

Some of the meals described:

fried green tomatoes, corn bread, cucumbers, green onions, and sweet tea

chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, a slice of tomato

red beans and rice, corn bread, chunks of tomatoes and cucumbers swimming in vinegar, avocados sliced and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and blackberry pie for dessert

Asher fixes grilled cheese, fried bologna, and peanut butter and jelly (with a Nehi) sandwiches for Justin and packs a bag with chips, granola bars, oranges, bananas, Nabs, peanuts, cashews all of which Justin eschews and asks for a honey bun.

If you need a cornbread recipe, here’s Southern Living’s official one. No sugar, Mr. House: https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/ben-mims-perfect-cornbread

Music

Silas House talked about the music of Southernmost in his Parnassus interview as well (it’s like Jeff Zentner was reading my mind!) and said:

Once I knew that Asher was moved and changed by the music of Patty Griffin, I knew more about him. Once I figured out that Justin is obsessed with Jim James from My Morning Jacket, I had him pegged. Then there’s Bell, who has named her cottage after a Joni Mitchell song. For me, music is such an integral part of everyday life that I can’t imagine characters who don’t care as deeply about it as I do. This book had a soundtrack of about 75 songs that I listened to over and over again over the course of many years and that hugely informed the theme and mood of the novel.

Here are some of the songs I found as I read:

I Don’t Want to Know, Fleetwood Mac

Wonderful, My Morning Jacket

house-silas2-c-tasha-thomasTom Petty

The Mamas and the Papas

Song to a Seagull, Joni Mitchell

My Sweet Lord, George Harrison

My Dixie Darling, Carlene Carter

My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, traditional Scottish song

 

 

Read Southernmost. Discuss it. Enjoy it.

My Reading Year

calendar

“Overdue Book Calendar” auntjune’s Etsy shop.

As the New Year approaches, I have begun a review of this one. What did I accomplish, what did I fail to accomplish, what is worth remembering and what would I rather forget? I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to the San Miguel Writers Conference, attending the Carnegie Center of Lexington’s Books in Progress Conference, the Kentucky Women Writers Conference and the Appalachian Writers Workshop. I met and learned from a number of wonderful writers, including: Rosalind Brackenbury; Jacinda Townsend; Marie Manilla; Hannah Pittard; Ronni Lundy; Scott Turow; Rebecca Gayle Howell; Robert Gipe; and David Joy. Most overwhelmingly joyously, I signed with Folio Literary Management’s Senior Vice President Erin Cartwright Niumata for representation. My website is up and running, pameladae.com, and Erin has my novel “After the Race” out to multiple editors and publishers for sale. It’s been a busy, exciting, successful year and I am so thankful for all those who have helped and guided me.

And I’m thankful for you readers. On average, about 100 people read this blog daily. I hope you have found a book you weren’t aware of, or a recipe, or maybe a playlist. I hope it’s made you laugh, or curious, or on occasion, thoughtful.

Today, I’m providing an overview of the books read in my book club. Tomorrow, I’m going to reveal my best reads of 2015 — not necessarily published in 2015. And as always, I’d love to hear what your book club is reading, what your favorite book of 2015 was, what you’re cooking or listening to while you read.

Book Club 2015 Reads

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzal. Published in 2013, this is the autobiography of the teenage Nobel Prize winner. Our hostess served a Mediterranean platter of hummus, tzitaki, vegetables and pita.

A Dog’s Purpose, Bruce Cameron. See my earlier post: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/a-dogs-purpose-is-apparently-to-make-me-cry/

Delta Scarlett

A Touch of Stardust, Kate Alcott. This novel, published in 2017, is supposed to be about a young woman from Indiana who becomes involved in the lives of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard during the filming of Gone with the Wind. It was simplistic, a bit silly, and our book club was not impressed.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins. This book was a success with everyone. See my earlier post: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/crossing-the-tracks-girl-on-the-train-by-paula-hawkins/

Life after Life, Kate Atkinson. Also a big success. I’ve posted about Life After Life and Atkinson’s follow-up A God In Ruinshttps://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/as-the-world-re-turns-life-after-life-and-a-god-in-ruins-by-kate-atkinson/

Saint Monkey, Jacinda Townsend. Whenever we can find a novel that has a Saint Monkey covertie to our locale, we certainly try to read it. Townsend’s Kentucky to New York odyssey had us in thrall. See my earlier post: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/growing-up-saint-monkey-by-jacinda-townsend/

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart. A Kennedy-esque mystery of sorts. https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/kennedyesque-we-were-liars-by-e-lockhart/

archie ap comicUnbecoming, Rebecca Scherm. Another guessing game involving a triplet of would-be thieves with literary undertones and one of our favorites. I need to blog about this. Author Rebecca Scherm, as I understand, went to the same high school as I did.

Black Chalk, Christopher J. Yates. Another twisty page-turner that I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about! Look forward to that one.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Nancy Horan. The author of Loving Frank, which we all loved, followed up with this novel about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, which we did not love. See my earlier post: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/rls-under-the-wide-and-starry-sky-and-treasure-island/

Logo_-_MameMame, Patrick Dennis. Who doesn’t love Auntie Mame with her outrageous clothing, behavior, match-making and travels? It was a perfect, classic to end the year.

 

So there’s our year of book club reads. Tomorrow, my favorite reads of 2015.

Happy Reading!