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3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,922 ratings  ·  326 reviews
On a lush mountaintop trapped in time, two women vow to protect each other at all costs-and one young girl must defy her father to survive.

An hour from the closest West Virginia mining town, fifteen-year-old Wren Bird lives in a cloistered mountain cabin with her parents. They have no car, no mailbox, and no visitors-except for her mother's lifelong best friend. Every
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 5th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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Kay Through the miracle of artistic license.

I didn't really get the impression it was your typical licensed, state-regulated foster home either.…more
Through the miracle of artistic license.

I didn't really get the impression it was your typical licensed, state-regulated foster home either.(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,922 ratings  ·  326 reviews

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Angela M
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“Making good moonshine isn’t that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman. She knows that legends and liquor are best spun from the back of a pickup truck after nightfall, just as she knows to tell a story slowly, the way whiskey drips through a sieve.”

“Stories, like bottles of shine are meant to be given away.”

“ I didn’t want to be a story. I wanted to live.”

This stunning story takes place on a secluded mountain in West Virginia where days of drink, drugs, dea
Jun 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

"The truth turns sour if it idles too long in our mouths. Stories, like bottles of shine, are meant to be given away."

Fifteen-year-old Wren Bird lives in a mountain cabin with her parents Ruby and Briar. She is home schooled and seldom goes to the nearest town. Her parents have no car, no mailbox, and welcome no visitors except for her Mother's friend, Ivy.

"There's is no one lonelier than the wife of a preacher."

Every Sunday, her father leads sermons in an abandoned gas station
Diane S ☔
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
West Virginia, hidden on a mountain top, miles from the nearest town, Wren lives with her parents, Ruby and Briar. At fifteen she has never been to school, taught by her mother. Her father, a snake handling preacher, whose path in life was formed by a lightening strike, when he was a younger man. Wren has been hidden away from the world, seeing only her mother's best friend, Ivy and her family. That is until she meets Caleb, which sets in motion detrimental changes to all their lives.

Five fully
Anne Bogel
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman."

Wren lives in the Appalachian Mountains with her family: her snake-handler father, who scares and enraptures the town with his preaching, and her mother, who only ever wanted to get off the mountain with her best friend Ivy, but whose parents made her marry. When Ivy stumbles into the fire and Wren's father performs a "miraculous healing," it sets in motion a chain of events that has de
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taking place amid the abject poverty of the “hollers” of Appalachian West Virginia, a miracle goes very wrong and has devastating repercussions. The storyline follows two generations of mountain men and women and their traditions of making moonshine, snake handling, and what appears to be male dominance. Alcoholism and the opioid crisis rear their heads, yet there is a great sense of love. Love for each other, their land and their mountain traditions which are not to say that there isn’t a perva ...more
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This is the second book in a month where I enjoyed the blurb much more than the book. It sounds so freaking good! 

In the beginning, I enjoyed Shiner, enjoyed the way the author writes, thought this was gonna be a 4 or 5 star book for me. Unfortunately, the characters are never fully fleshed out and the more I read, the less plausible the characters became. 

For instance, there are some teens in foster care who immediately upon meeting one of the main characters (Wren) tell her their stories. Bull
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, edelweiss-2020
4.5 moonshine stars

This gem had so many elements that I love in a book: small town Southern setting, memorable characters, love, blind faith, friendship, passion, and tragedy.

Wren is fifteen and has been sheltered her whole life in the remote backwoods of West Virginia. She’s homeschooled, but anxious to learn more about the world. Her father is a snake handling pastor who has special healing powers after being struck by lightning.

Wren’s mom, Ruby and her best friend Ivy, grew up together but al
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Here’s an embarrassing confession: I noticed this book sitting on the “new release” shelf behind the counter at Barnes and Noble while I was waiting in line to pick up my pre-ordered copy of Midnight Sun by Sparkles the Vampire. Since I had already blown my book budget on that sure to be Pulitzer winner, I had to go home and get this one from the library.

I didn’t know anything about Shiner before beginning aside from the fact that the
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Deep in the hollers of West Virginia is the Bird family. They live a simple life and would be completely closed off from the world if not for Briar Bird’s sermons and snake handling every Sunday to his faithful flock in an abandoned gas station.
Ruby Bird spends her days with her best friend Ivy. They’ve been friends since they were kids and have become like sisters. Their bond is seemingly unbreakable and they have settled for the lives they’ve chosen as long as they have each other.
When Ivy bec
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
*I just updated my rating on this book. I initially had it at 4.5 stars due to one minor criticism but, really, I still think of the unputdownable beauty of this book since reading it in May and I think it really was a 5 star read for me.*

“Moonshine earned its name from spending its life concealed in the dark, and no one understands that fate more than I do.”

Shiner is the story of three women: Ruby, her best friend Ivy, and her daughter Wren. It is also the story of isolation, secrets, toxic be
Karen M
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, first-reads, fiction
Love and loyalty, lies, revenge, fear, and hope are what this story is about.

The love and loyalty that grew from childhoods of want and suffering and a need for friendship that grew deeper through the years. Two women whose lives are shaped and trapped by the mountains of West Virginia and the men who dominate their lives, Ruby and Ivy.

Fathers and husbands control their lives because the women have no say in this world of moonshiners, thieves and drunks. The only true thing in their lives is the
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Anne Bogel sold me on this in a recent Patreon podcast. I listened to audio. Loved the characters and story.
Paris (parisperusing)
This was a beautifully woven tale, one drunk on love and faith and hope. It's not just the story of a daughter coming of age but also of the unbreakable friendship forged between two childhood friends who, under the pressures of their time, had to flatten their dreams of embarking another life. It's a generation-sweeping story that unlocks life-changing secrets — some buried, others resurfaced — that speak vastly to the unforgivable ways men lay claim to women who refused to be tamed.

Amy Jo Burn
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book seemed to start strong, as the story line seemed promising, but it petered out quite rapidly. It's main flaw was how wildly unbelievable its characters were. I so often found myself pulling away from the book and asking out loud: "what!? why??" The book mostly centers on female characters, and in particular a strong female friendship, but the female characters are given so little agency, particularly compared to the male characters, and the friendship is hardly explored in any way that ...more
Leah Schmidt
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The characters were so rich and full of life. I love the shifting perspectives and the storytelling in reverse. My only complaint is it wasn’t long enough. I hope the author chooses to revisit this place and tell another tale ❤️
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautiful story about growing up in West Virginia, SHINER is a wallop of a book: short, sour, and vivid. Wren, our 15 year old protagonist, is the daughter of a preacher and snake charmer, Briar, who is as unknowable as her mysterious mother Ruby. They live isolated from the rest of the modern world in the Appalachian mountains close to Ruby's best friend Ivy, who also has secrets of her own. The story moves fast, and as tragedy strikes and we meet the moonshiner Flynn, we are whipped back and ...more
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible! I read this in a day and LOVED it!! If you are a fan of Where the Crawdads've got to read this!!!
Megan C.
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it

A very satisfying and enjoyable read. The reason for 3.5 as opposed to 4 stars is likely my own internal bias. I adore southern noir and Appalachian fiction like The Line That Held Us, Gods of Howl Mountain, and Bull Mountain. I was looking for something dark and gritty, like those books, in Shiner. It certainly had dark and gritty moments, and I really did enjoy it, but the story just didn't pack the level of punch I wanted, which is my f
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This intricately layered ballad to the little glimpsed world of moonshining and snake charming in the Appalachian mountains went down easy. Amy Jo Burns writes sentences that beg to be sung and this story of one heartbreak of a family, the myths they live by, and the girl who unravels them, is achingly good.
Steph VanderMeulen
Oh my God, this book. This writing. The stories, the characters. The setting. It's all there: it's all rich and perfect and transportive. I don't have enough words right now: I feel dizzy with it all. I inhaled this literary beauty in less than two days. You should read it. Along with Chelsea Bieker's Godshot, it's the best I've read this year.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5.
It started with one of the best opening paragraphs I've read in a long while.
"Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman. She knows that legends and liquor are best spun from the back of a pickup truck after nightfall, just as she knows to tell a story slowly, the way whiskey drips through a sieve."

Those words are Wren's - the central character (but not the narrator for the entire novel). She is the daughter a snake hand
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much rage and sadness in these pages. But also beauty and the fierceness of a friendship you will wish was yours.
Andy Weston
May 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a poor imitation of the great writing of the likes of Harry Crews, William Gay and Donald Ray Pollock. Burns uses the same sort of setting, a backward and backwoods Appalachia, where the same sort of oppressive and hardline preacher is busy building myth with snakes and strychnine.
Amongst the problems in Burns's premise, is that this is set in the modern day, and she asks readers to accept an absence of child protection, a thriving moonshine operation, and a lawless society not only wit
Jillian Doherty
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A smoldering, taut debut about isolation and living the life she thought she should have, until she ultimately open her eyes. Literary, atmospheric, and haunting writing~

Shiner is about love of family, love of land, love of tradition-but also one character's ability to see that she is stronger and more capable than her mountain culture has taught her. This is the story of a gradual female rebellion.

​With empathy and humanity, Amy Jo Burns illuminates an impoverished, blue-collar section of the c
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book. Set in the heart of Appalachia, the story celebrates the absolute best and worst of people who, by choice or by birth, perch delicately on the edge of civilization. The story has elements which reminded me in part of Educated, Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and Where the Crawdads Sing.
Angel Eduardo
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, deftly written story, at once magical and grounded. Wren’s story was relatable despite her and my worlds being cosmically different. More than anything I loved inhabiting this story, feeling these characters live and breathe, moving along with them on their journeys, and thoroughly enjoying the reality Amy Jo Burns weaves with seemingly effortless grace and masterful prose.
Amy Meyerson
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shiner is so lyrically written, you might overlook how masterfully plotted it is, too. Every word of this taut, captivating novel is carefully planted, and I found myself stopping more often than I normally do to admire a sentence, a paragraph, a passage. This one is not to be missed.
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. I loved it! I loved the characters, I loved the story telling from all the different views. I fell in love with the characters. It was the book I really needed.
“a snake is not a snake. It’s an agile tapestry, a piece of the wild you can hold in your hand.”

“Coal miners’ wives have been forced to use sex as a shield since the 1930s when mining companies had yet to purge the hills of ore and coal barons thought they owned the right to all the land’s riches — including the women. A mining wife earned scrips for food and clothing by sleeping with her husband’s boss.”

I am a big fan of fiction based on Appalachia and the south. I am a bigger fan of the book
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Conflicted on rating. 3.5. [esp. as trusted friend loved, but...] In the distinct minority--I felt I've read this book before--but a better version.

Started out a solid 4. Then slowly not.

Mountain women--primarily--[and men], friendship, family/dysfunction, and shine [moonshine]. Snake handling. Hardship after hardship. Often heartbreaking.

Some beautiful writing and descriptions but just not enough to rave.

So--read it and come to your own conclusions.
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Amy Jo Burns is the author of the memoir Cinderland and Shiner, a novel. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Tin House and Ploughshares Online, Gay Magazine, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and the anthology Not That Bad.

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Let's face it, this year's class of first-time authors is seeing its debut novels launch into a world much different from what anyone in the...
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“Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman. She knows that legends and liquor are best spun from the back of a pickup truck after nightfall, just as she knows to tell a story slowly, the way whiskey drips through a sieve.” 0 likes
“These two women had taught me to fear what you'd find in a man once he became a father. I went to bed with a man, Ivy said to the empty hillside, and woke up with a boy.” 0 likes
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