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Group Reads: Post-1980 > Final Impressions: Southernmost, by Silas House: August 2018

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message 1: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new)

Tom Mathews | 2508 comments Mod
Comments on this board are made with the assumption that readers have finished the book and may include spoilers.


message 2: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
Finished today and loved it. I was thinking it was just okay until they got to Key West, then upped my opinion of it. Did anyone else feel this way? I have visited Key West, so the island and descriptions had a familiar feel to me.
Here is a review by Diane: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 3: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
I thought the same thing, Karen, until I realized that it had actually been brewing for many years, starting with his denial of his brother. The events of the flood were just the catalyst. And then the son was such a sensitive little boy, and he saw a need to protect him from the religious society that could make life hard for a child like that.


message 4: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
I’m not far but I feel like Silas House has thrown me into something huge but he’s forgotten to give me all the details. I’ve gotten glimpses but will he ever give us a more detailed account of “before the flood?”


message 5: by Connie (last edited Aug 03, 2018 07:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 417 comments Laura, there are more flashbacks about how Asher's mother, Asher himself, and the community rejected Luke, his brother.

Asher's wife, the daughter of a preacher, wants to toughen up their son. I got the feeling she wants to make sure that the son does not follow in Luke's footsteps. But Asher loves his son, and knows that his sensitivity is part of what makes him so wonderful.

People get taught what to believe when they are children going to religious instruction or when listening to family members' beliefs. It can take years for people to either question or affirm what they have been taught, and Asher is on that questioning journey. The author has made Asher uncomfortable about some things, like marrying the two men, so we realize that he is still sorting out his beliefs.


message 6: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
I felt the same way until they got to Key West. It's like being in a freer space, away from so much of the judgement that he faced in Tennessee, have him permission to let his mind expand. Key West turned this book around, in my opinion. Don't know if that's what House intended or not.


message 7: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
Diane
I am there now and totally agree.


Cathrine ☯️  | 558 comments I finished today and rated it 3 stars. The "lyrical" writing was a bit overbearing and repetitive for me this time around and overall the book came off a bit preachy/messagy for my tastes. Asher's actions were a bit hard to buy into.
I read that there are over 800,000 child kidnappings a year and just over 200,000 of them are by relatives. That's a lot so I also struggled with accepting that they were so recognizable wherever they went while on the run. Are that many people paying attention to 200,000 abductions? I don't know. Overall the pace was too slow and a bit boring.


message 9: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
I agree about the recognition factor. Would people in Key West even care about an abduction in Tennessee? And would it make the national news 3 months later? The postcards were also strange. It would be a bit much to send one to everyone in the country.


message 10: by ALLEN (last edited Aug 11, 2018 09:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

ALLEN | 131 comments Diane wrote: "I agree about the recognition factor. Would people in Key West even care about an abduction in Tennessee? And would it make the national news 3 months later? The postcards were also strange. It wou..."

Diane, I must agree that you're right about the "nationwide" impact of one Tennessee abduction -- there wouldn't be one. In a true-crime fiction more closely based on actual reality, the child's name would probably wind up on the board or on TV -- but only within the Volunteer State. (At least the taking-place is realistic, if not its scope: most child abductions are of close relatives, and in fact usually a divorced or estranged parent kidnapping his or her child in response to what he/she feels is too restrictive a judgment for visitation rights.)

I had a feeling things were going to go wrong when Silas' attorney, allegedly sympathetic, told him right off there were things he could and could not expect. (The attorney was probably quite competent and telling Silas the awful truth). It jelled for me when Silas' mother-in-law pulled away her support. Note how little "accommodation" it would have taken to keep Silas in the area, working at a job beneath him, living in a house trailer just to keep the boy nearby, legally. I have to believe that the point here is that a gay man -- or hear, a non-gay sympathizer -- is still a pariah through much of these United States.

Silas' plight reminds me of the worst of the McCarthy era 60 or 70 years ago, when a real Communist, suspected Communist, or suspected "Commie symp" or "Pinko" all stood to lose their civil rights, even at a time during which mere Communist Party (USA) membership was completely legal. The Cumberland Valley attitude, by and large, seems to be: "Oh, sure, the Supreme Court may say it's okay to be gay, even to be married, but none of that here, thank you." Remember, nobody thought Silas had any "deviationist" tendencies, just that he tried to be accommodating (many would say, "Christian") to two souls who had lost their house to the flood.

As for the Key West sequences, well . . . I 'd like to hear from others.


message 11: by Camie (new)

Camie | 101 comments For some reason my book wasn't shipped. I think I'm going to take Karen's recommendation though and order Eli The Good by this author instead, I enjoy a good YA book once in awhile.


ALLEN | 131 comments This conversation did not gather as many people as I'd hoped.


Vicki | 64 comments Allen I am sorry I did not contribute to the discussion about Southernmost, a book that I enjoyed. This was my first time to read a book by the author and will not be my last. He hooked me with the impact of homophobia on his relationships with his family, friends and church. Yes, some aspects of the book may not be plausible but I was able to disregard that and appreciate what he was trying to get the reader to think about.


ALLEN | 131 comments The late James Hopewell, author of Congregation: Stories and Structures, say that churches 'speak' with a message about their mission.

Some churches say, "We minister to our own"; others say "We try to
offer healing." Yet others say, "We're not having any of THAT."

Not too hard to figure out what Asher's former church said, eh?


Candi (candih) | 207 comments My turn for a copy from the library came rather late, so I just finished reading this one late last night. This was my first novel by Silas House and his writing skills and handling of an important topic encourages me to read more. I loved the lyrical writing - the Key West descriptions in particular were so vivid. I've never been there, but feel as if I've done so for a short time now. I agree that the entire story moved with a more positive force when the setting shifted to the Keys.

I felt a more claustrophobic feeling due to the religious fervor of the folks in his hometown in Tennessee. I instantly thought that Justin's sympathetic, tender nature was going to be stamped out by his mother - especially when she started taking him to a psychiatrist because he 'felt too much.' I think she didn't want him to think of anything too much on his own at all, because then he would be more likely to question her particular faith. She wanted him to put his heart and soul into God and the church, not into what Justin called 'Everything' - nature, animals, other people, etc. I loved Justin's way of thinking - as well as Bell's and Evona's.

At first I also thought Asher seemed to have a too-sudden turnaround in his way of thinking. But then when we see flashbacks, and realize he has been questioning his faith, it seemed more plausible. His growth seemed more credible - as Connie mentioned - due to the fact that he still had several steps yet to make on his journey. He could not agree to marry the two men, he questioned whether he would be able to face his brother and completely accept him if he had another man by his side. He realizes that despite his feelings of acceptance, he still has some growth ahead of him. I think watching his son develop and turn into such a sensitive young boy that could think for himself gave Asher that extra nudge to do the same. Justin's world was so much bigger, and he was able to bring Asher into it with him. Key West enabled Asher to see even more of the world.


message 16: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
Agree with everything Candi, but I also thought that Justin's mother worried that sensitive = gay, and wanted to put a stop to that kind of thinking. She obviously loved her son, but would she love him if he were gay, since that didn't fit her religious views? Asher's own mother couldn't make that leap when his brother came out, and disowned him. The mountain community had very restrictive ideas, and the difference between there and Key West was worlds apart. I like to think that taking Justin to Key West expanded his world, and would help him have confidence in whatever path he chose in life.


Candi (candih) | 207 comments Yes, I suspect the same about Justin's mother too, Diane. If she had even an inkling that he could be gay, then she would do everything in her power to make Justin suppress those feelings.


ALLEN | 131 comments Candi wrote: "Yes, I suspect the same about Justin's mother too, Diane. If she had even an inkling that he could be gay, then she would do everything in her power to make Justin suppress those feelings."

I can tell you from honest witness that it doesn't work.


message 19: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
Of course it doesn't work, people are who they are. But convincing narrow minds of that is impossible.


Candi (candih) | 207 comments Exactly, Allen and Diane! I know some narrow-minded folks myself, and there is no budging them.


ALLEN | 131 comments Would you recommend SOUTHERNMOST to people with reservations?

Or would you recommend SOUTHERNMOST to people unreservedly?


Candi (candih) | 207 comments Allen, I always hesitate to recommend books in general unless I know a person's reading taste quite well - only because I feel that different readers like different writing styles. But, if I had to answer the question I would recommend to people unreservedly. Overall, I think most people I know would very much enjoy this book.


message 23: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
As I said in my review, the people who need to read this book the most will never read this book. Having said that though, I do think fiction readers as a group tend to be more open to ideas and cultures and people different from them, just by virtue of being readers in the first place. I would recommend this book to any of them.


message 24: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
I would not hesitate to recommend. However, if I wanted to introduce House to a new reader I would start with a different book that really shows his Kentucky roots.


ALLEN | 131 comments This is my first book by Silas House. Is there anything in particular you'd recommend, Laura?


message 26: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
I liked coal Tattoo but my husband always recommends A Parchment of leaves which the Trail has read and it was well received.


message 27: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
Parchment of Leaves is my favorite.


Cathrine ☯️  | 558 comments I also loved Parchment of Leaves. I will definitely read another of his books. This one was just a bit flat for me. Think I'm going to try Clay's Quilt next.


message 29: by Connie (last edited Aug 28, 2018 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 417 comments I loved A Parchment of Leaves too, and this is a good reminder to read some of his other Appalachian books.


ALLEN | 131 comments In y'all's opinions (hey, I'm Southern, I can use the term) how does SOUTHERNMOST compare with the rest of Silas House's novelistic canon? Clearly he already had a great rep as a Southern-tending-to-national writer. Does SOUTHERNMOST advance his rep? It is in keeping with his other books? I don't mean gay rights per se, but the idea of exploring a byway in mid-Appalachian culture, particularly that the things not-said are more important than the things said?


message 31: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (last edited Aug 29, 2018 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
I've only read The Coal Tattoo and this one. It's been a while but I felt like the characters were a little more fleshed out in earlier work. I wanted more on how Asher got to this point. The flashbacks helped some but I felt a little like I showed up late and missed some crucial things. Once we got to Key West I really liked how that developed but could have used more pages for the lead up to the breaking point for Asher. I wanted more details for the point Asher says "enough is enough."

This is vague but some thoughts. Good question.....does it advance his rep? He's been touring the heck out of this book and as a reader that goes a long way for me. I think he was on firm ground with past writings and I think this book gets people to think and talk hopefully in respectable ways. It will be interesting to see what he follows with next. IMO, this work does NOT put him at a disadvantage. I was fortunate to be at his reading and he is very humble. Readers don't forget things like that.


ALLEN | 131 comments I do not mean this in any way as slighting, but SOUTHERNMOST strikes me as the kind of book that would have been a shoo-in for a selection of the old Book-of-the-Month Club, or the Literary Guild.

In fact, my cousin LeAnn in Knoxville runs a chat club, and I'm offering her the book just to get her interested.


message 33: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laura | 1948 comments Mod
If your cousin lives in Knoxville, she must check out Charles Dodd white’s new book. He lives around knoxville and starts his book tour soon. I was raised in that area and he nails this book. Just a side note.

House stopped at a cool Indy bookstore in downtown knoxville. I think the book has been well received.


message 34: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Barnes | 3888 comments Mod
I enjoyed House's earlier novels more, because I consider them Appalachian literature, and I don't think Southernmost was that at all. Having said that, this may be his breakout book because it crosses genres, and like you said, Allen, is more "book-of-the-monthy".


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