Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Remnants

The Remnants by Robert Hill
Forest Avenue Press: 3/15/16
eBook review copy; 272 pages
trade paperback ISBN-13: 9781942436157

The Remnants by Robert Hill is a unique novel about endings in a small, insular community. It is recommended, highly for the right reader.

New Eden is an isolated community, cut off from interaction with the outside world, where the citizens live in a collective milieu with a miasma of secrets. This isolation has resulted in intermarriage and inbreeding that has resulted in a plethora of hereditary oddities among the generations of the limited families living there.

It begins with True Bliss, who is 99 and will be 100 the next day, planning the birthday tea she has every year with Kennesaw Belvedere, who is turning 99. Hunko Minto is planning to put this tradition to an end. "On every tenth of September since the molten lava cooled, True Bliss served tea and saltines to Kennesaw Belvedere in the parlor of her home on the occasion of his birth, and this was the day, and that was the deed, and he, Hunko Minton, was going to be the blast that would finally end that repast."

As these citizens are introduced, we meet more of the residents and hear the history of the community, the families, intermarriages, secrets, grudges, deaths, and oddities. Now and again the social taboos broken and the downright weird customs and behaviors of the citizens can become overwhelming. I enjoyed The Remnants at the beginning, but as it continued, I'll have to admit that it all became a bit too much for me. At the opening you aren't sure where this community is or why the citizens have these oddities. They could be survivors from some nuclear disaster or perhaps they are truly a remnant population after some other disaster.

The saving grace of the novel is the writing, which is mellifluous and descriptive, but also feels antiquated. At times Hill creates a vocabulary of his own making for many custom and actions in the novel, which requires the reader to carefully follow along to deduce what he is describing or what is happening.

The questions about why and where are what kept me reading, but there were times it did cross my mind to set The Remnants aside because of the parts I did not enjoy. So, it is worth reading but it is not a novel I'd recommend for many people. I'd highly recommend it for the right reader - literary, unconventional, dauntless, and tenacious - to reach the end.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
Forest Avenue Press for review purposes.

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