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A Shout in the Ruins

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  1,047 ratings  ·  200 reviews
Set in Virginia during the Civil War and a century beyond, this novel by the award-winning author of The Yellow Birds explores the brutal legacy of violence and exploitation in American society.

Spanning over one hundred years, from the antebellum era to the 1980's, A Shout in the Ruins examines the fates of the inhabitants of Beauvais Plantation outside of Richmond, Virgin
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
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J.L.   Sutton
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed Kevin Powers’ A Shout in the Ruins. A central thesis of this multigenerational novel which begins right after the Civil War is that history is destiny. And violence and racism are unfortunately part of that destiny which we need to come to terms with. Because of my own family history, I was especially intrigued by the references to the Lumbee/Croatoans of North Carolina. I continue to see consequences of my family history playing out in the present. Likewise, in Powers’ novel, t ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 The lingering effects of the civil War isexp!ored in this novel, using multiple threads. The latter takes place nearly a hundred years after wars end, and this thread follows the quest of a very old black man named George. A man who doesn't know who he came from but does loosely remember where. He was only three when he was taken for safety, and given to someone else to raise. As hejournsys back through time, we also follow the story of Emily,her father John, two blacks who try to do anythin ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At a time when our country is again in the midst of a noisy national conversation about race, Kevin Powers creates a powerful fiction to illuminate the not-so-distant terrors and strains of our Civil War. Powers touches our sensitive places and his sentences carry knowledge from which none of us can hide.

The work is a feast of imagination, packed full with exemplars of character definition, narrative structure, tone, style, language choice. The language is the first thing one notices. Each sente
Ron Charles
Kevin Powers's debut novel, “The Yellow Birds,” was one of the first about the Iraq War and one of the most celebrated novels of the era. A finalist for a National Book Award, it won praise from Tom Wolfe, Dave Eggers and writer-vets who knew the horrors of battle firsthand. If Powers’s prose sometimes sounded florid, that seemed a blemish worth tolerating for the emotional insight he offered on that quagmire 6,000 miles away.

But now Powers has turned his scope on slavery and the Civil War, the
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I made it to the 41% point of the book and gave up. There were too many characters and too much shifting among time periods. I also didn't enjoy the writing style. About an injured soldier: "He saw where he had been before his birth. The darkness there, too. A void broken only by spirals of color. A vastness so great as to be meaningless." About a slave "...she was taught a language beyond speech, one that existed when the ground on which all her torments occurred had been submerged below a chan ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I reviewed Kevin Powers’ elegiac first novel—The Yellow Birds—I began with this line: “All pain is the same. Only the details are different.”

In this, his second novel, Kevin Powers does not stray far from that theme; indeed, this new book explores the brutal legacy of violence that spans from the antebellum era to the 1980s. The focus is on the devaluing of human life through the hideous notion that one human could be “master” to another.

There are two key plot lines at play: the first cent
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How is it possible for love to exist in a world, or more specifically, in a country built on war and hate? That is the question Powers poses in his second novel. And what a special novel it is. The writing is beautiful, the characters are beautiful, and the story is both beautiful and horrible. A Civil War novel that does not paint with a broad brush. This is not a novel about two warring factions: it is a novel about individual actors who are fighting to find love and happiness.

Some samples th
Oct 26, 2017 added it
This compact and powerful novel is remarkable in the way it conveys over a hundred years of Virginia (and by extension, United States) history, tracing the lives of characters who are deliberately archetypal and also credibly presented as individuals. It's a well-written and moving book, to my mind, ultimately an origin story: both about the roots of people in a specific place, and those of violence in all people. Just after finishing it, I am left with a sense of tragic interconnectedness that ...more
Gumble's Yard
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
“Open your eyes. Tell me what it looks like. Come back in five years, in ten, in a hundred and tell me what you’ve accomplished.”

Kevin Powers debut novel was the widely acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds which examined the lives of soldiers through and after the war – a novel which drew on his own experiences in the US army in Iraq.

This his follow-up novel has much in common: set around a war (in this case the Civil War) and examining the consequences of the war (in this case over more than
As a National Book Award Finalist for The Yellow Birds, Powers was able to capture how war can unleash evil and violence among the combatants; and then be haunted by these memories in their dreams. In A Shout in the Ruins, Powers tackles the brutality of the Civil War and Reconstruction. He moves between two storylines: the nonagenarian George Seldom, whose home is destroyed in 1956 to make way for the new Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, is seeking to solve the mystery of who his people were; and ...more
Colleen Fauchelle
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
I read this one last week.
No character is exempt from pain in this book. It's a hard hitting story set during the civil war. It's a power play between whites and their slaves, white against white. It was the worst of times where no one was free to live the life they wanted. This story is full of heartache.
Callum Macdonald
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read - Powers taps into a harrowing sense of fatalism that remains unparalleled. Moving and intimate.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars A very slow burn. I was tempted to give up on this Virginia family saga multiple tunes in the first half. It’s confusing, and desolate and the story kept swerving before I could settle in. But there were flickering moments of beautiful prose and raw emotional truth.
There always might be trouble. The good Lord’s up there playing dice, far as I can tell.

The trouble he was born with was not the kind that can be locked away in a cedar chest and left behind. And he also knew that the term
Roman Clodia
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Perhaps my expectations were too high after Powers' wondrous Yellow Birds, because I found it hard to get involved in this book. Again, we have big themes of violence and history, but it's the intimacy of the first book that I missed. With too many characters, two many time switches, and too much going on in what is a short novel, this lacked the impact of the first book. There are moments when Powers' distinctive voice emerges from the text, but then it is submerged again... Hopefully this is t ...more
Sam Law
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a story of actions and consequences, as well as inactions and their consequences, and the ripple effect they have on lives.

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Common Thread:
George Seldom is the common thread that weaves through the lives of the inhabitants of Beauvais Plantation, Virginia just after the American Civil War in 1865, all the way through to the closing years of the 1980’s.

George, we are told, was rescued as a three-year-old boy by a travelling band of brothers c
May 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
This could've been a great read...but it wasn't. Powers' prose is fine, but the storyline jumps around in different timelines, often without warning. Some of the bits don't mesh well with the overall plot. Some characters are finely drawn, others fall flat. There's a lot of headhopping, often within the same scene. It might've worked better if told in a linear mode, or at least with some cohesion to the timeline.
Sid Nuncius
Like so many others, I thought Kevin Powers's The Yellow Birds was quite exceptionally good. Sadly, A Shout In The Ruins isn't of nearly the same quality. There is a lot of Powers's lyrical and sometimes very beautiful writing, but as a novel I found it very disappointing.

The story cuts between time periods (seemingly almost compulsory for new novels at the moment) around the Civil War and the early 1950s, both in Virginia. The stories are…well…confusing, to be honest. There are illustrations of
Jim Angstadt
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Shout in the Ruins
Kevin Powers

There are two intersecting stories here, one set during the US Civil War, the other 100 years later, both set in the vicinity of northern North Carolina and southern Virginia. The narrative jumps back and forth between the two time-frames. But in one's mind, a third time-frame -- right now -- adds another data point as we compare progress, or lack, over time.

Levallois, the plantation owner, is cunning, resourceful, greedy, hungry for power and control, but without
Jun 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-ebooks
I'm going to go ahead and DNF this one. I think maybe a few years ago I would've been deeply interested in this storyline, but I've read a lot more books since then, where the characters are easy to follow, and the story isn't broken up by loads of jumps between time periods. The writing style just isn't for me, and I think the edition I was sent had some glitches - I found it quite hard to actually read, which was a shame. I DNF'd at 35% (around 96 pages in) - I couldn't get into it, and didn't ...more
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was so heartbreaking, so precisely written, that I’m almost prepared to vow never to read another novel not written by a poet—except then, of course, I’d have precious little to read. What’s the word for that feeling of despair mixed with awe and an inability to return to one’s place in present tense? I don’t know. I don’t have Mr. Powers’ gift for language. But I feel changed.

On a less dramatic note... I have read quite a few novels with black characters written by white men. This i

Visit the locations in the novel

An epic and all encompassing read. It takes place over many many years from before the Civil war in 1865 leading up to 1980s. There’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of characters to keep track of. But this author is not afraid of a challenge.

It’s a novel of shadows – black, white and lots of shades of gray – there’s several voices all at one – speaking and trying to get their point across which is often hard to separate. But on another note, this technique do
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More Virginia with Kevin Powers's second book, A Shout in the Ruins. Consensus seems to be that it's good, but not on the same level as his debut novel, The Yellow Birds, which set the bar for early literary explorations of the (Second) Iraq War. Having not read The Yellow Birds, all I can say is that it must be absolutely bloody outstanding, because A Shout in the Ruins is really very, very, very good.

Powers is clearly interested in war in general: A Shout in the Ruins alternates between chapte
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Shout in the Ruins is an intense, haunting, bleak and true-to-life civil war novel. Kevin Powers’ writing is gritty and uncompromising. Mostly set around Richmond, Virginia, this story is one of those that weaves together several timelines, characters, plots and years, so it’s best read in long sittings. At first I had a hard time keeping up with the chapters moving back and forth in time, but then I was able to spend some time with it this holiday mid-week and finally got absorbed. It’s pacin ...more
This book is great. The writing is superb, painted a great picture. The concept of the intimacy of violence was a really interesting one.

I think what most impressed me was the empathy employed by Powers in the telling. This empathy along with the intimacy helped to illustrate the true consequences of violence and incivility. These consequences seemed to transcend the physical world in some instances, in other instances it obliterated their world. This often set off a chain reaction leading to t
Douglas Osler
This is an insightful and upsetting description of the barbarism of southern whites before and during the civil war. It also deals with the relatives of some of the main characters decades later. The story jumps from one period to the other,sometimes confusingly. Well written,with solid historical background,it will appeal to those who want to know more about these times.
Lynn Pribus
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written book that put me much in mind of COLD MOUNTAIN. Partly, of course, because of its setting in the aftermath of the Civil War, and partly because of the elegant, yet economical writing.

Replete with sad, ruined characters and set in both the 1860s and the 1950s with one surviving character, George, offspring of the landowner who is a tyrant in the historical time (although not as cruel to his slaves as many) and Nurse, one of his slaves.

I'd like to get this on audible to rerea
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I received A Shout In The Ruins by Kevin Powers as a Goodreads giveaway. The novel was very well written and it will definitely make the reader think about the cruelty of the Civil War era. I found myself reading one chapter at a time then putting the book down for a day or two. I wished that the author had just written the story in chronological order and also left the Lottie character out entirely. If Mr. Powers had done the above, I would have given the book five stars.
As a story about the individuals on a plantation affected by the Civil War, A Shout in the Ruins is a decent novel. The individual stories are interesting, if not necessarily new, and the characters have enough development to become more than one-dimensional. It becomes easy to imagine that their stories occurring hundreds of years ago. Honestly, they probably have in some form or another.

As a novel trying to get you to contemplate life and love amidst a history of violence, A Shout in the Ruins
Sep 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was so glad when this book finally ended. There were at least two or three times while I was reading it that I think my brain actually shut down for a moment or two, in a protest to being forced to dredge through yet another sentence of the long-winded philosophical narrative in this book. I hesitate to say I was bored by it, because the book has a historical setting, and no one should ever be bored when considering the horrific ways that human beings treat other human beings, whether it be du ...more
Karen Barber
Thank you NetGalley for the access to this in exchange for my thoughts.
I’ve not read Powers’ first novel, and have no idea whether the sprawling style is his trademark but this left me baffled.
The write-up suggests we’ll gain insight into the character of George, a man who doesn’t know where he came from, and that we’ll journey through the South at a time of change. Having finished I honestly feel none the wiser about George and little extra was given to me.
The book itself is written well in ter
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Kevin Powers was born and raised in Richmond, VA. In 2004 and 2005 he served with the U.S. Army in Mosul and Tal Afar, Iraq. He studied English at Virginia Commonwealth University after his honorable discharge and received an M.F.A. in Poetry from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012.

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“Come back in five years, in ten, in a hundred, and tell me what you’ve accomplished. In the meantime, I will take what I need.”

“You will take what you want.”

“You act like there’s a man anywhere on earth who can tell the difference.”
“The world is changing, he thought. And though he was willing to admit it more quickly than most, his real gift was in recognizing that people were not changing with it.” 0 likes
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