I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
I have a discount code for purchasing a hard copy of the book. Click here and use code: PVNV3C at checkout. Many thanks to author Linda Stevens for persisting in generosity to provide this code.
I haven’t wept over a novel in a long time. While I might tear up at revelations in non-fiction, novels rarely move me to tears anymore. This isn’t because my heart is hardened, but mainly because I find it difficult to fully invest in the lives of fictional people when my heart is breaking over the very real people all around me.
I sobbed over Kindy Welcome: A Novel of the Shakers in the Civil War. The novel is almost more of a character study than heavily plot-driven. Yet, at what might be called the dramatic apex of the novel, I was shocked. I did not see it coming (also rare for me). Then, as the denoument of that event transpired, I cried and cried.
The resolution was so true to the character that had been written that I felt real, readerly grief over it. I felt the grief of the moment and I felt the pleasure of a reader who was experiencing a near-perfect crafting of story and manipulation of my reactions and emotions. It was very powerful.
When I was 55% finished with the book (oh, those e-readers and their percentages), I went ahead and bought a copy for my dad. The physical book is a pricey $34, but the language is so precise and evocative of the time that I desperately wanted to share the book with someone I knew would appreciate it. (See discount code above provided by the author!)
The majority of the novel takes place in the Shaker community of South Union in Kentucky. There is a softness to the novel, which reflects the almost otherworldliness of the community. Regrettably, the Civil War and Kentucky’s inability to take a side therein brings the world into sharp contact with South Union.
The Shakers are pacifists, but their deep notions of hospitality will not allow them to turn away anyone in need. The push and pull of the community create the rhythm of the novel, with the characters as pops of color and texture in the tapestry.
It is clear that Linda Stevens did an enormous amount of research to write this book. The amount of work shows, not just in the language and incorporation of real characters. I mean it shows in the way that you can see the architecture of an open-beamed house. While it could seem unfinished, it is only by that kind of building design that one can truly see and appreciate the effort that went into the construction.
It’s been a long time since I read Cold Mountain, but I have a more recent memory of Frazier’s second book, Thirteen Moons. Kindly Welcome stirred up my sense memory of reading the latter. If you like careful and deliberate use of language, reflecting an older way of speaking, and a slow boil on your plot- this is definitely a book for you. If you enjoy finding spiritual insights and reflections in a book that isn’t specifically in that category of reading, this is for you. If a meandering read about Shakers or the Civil War is your jam, then buy today!
I gave this book 5/5 stars (solid A) because I really didn’t want it to end.