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A Shout in the Ruins: An epic, decades-spanning elegy

KEVIN Powers came on the literary scene, big and bold, a few years ago with The Yellow Birds, a poetic, haunting look at the brutality of war.

He returns with A Shout in the Ruins (Little, Brown and Company; 272 pages; 2018), an epic elegy that spans the Civil War to the late 20th century. It is also lyrical, a haunting and haunted look at the brutality of life.

It focuses on a Virginia family devastated by the Civil War. The father is shattered financially, body, mind and soul. His daughter, Emily, marries Antony Levallois, a ruthless man, who wants to industrialize the battered Southern farmlands while he terrorizes the lives of his family, neighbors, acquaintances and slaves.

Meanwhile, Rawls and Nurse, who have overcome great odds to be together, still face the uncertainty of life in the face of emancipation.

Flash-forward to the 1950s. George is a man in his 90s. Years have whittled away the people in his life; a coming interstate has taken his home. He’s never had a full sense of identity, knowing he was an orphan with no sense ever of an orphan from whom. He decides to seek answers as he fades near the end of a long life.


Powers does not spell everything out for readers. He allows readers to connect some of the dots; readers must determine if some characters are in between the sheets by reading in between the lines.

The author deftly sews the timelines of his connected stories back and forth, stitching them together to form a fuller picture of the tenuous threads that connect lives immediately and generations past and future. THE VALDOSTA DAILY TIMES, GA./TNS

A Shout in the Ruins costs P1,099 in hardcover and is available in National Book Store and Powerbooks branches.

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