The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis
uncorrected proof; 368 pages
The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis is a highly recommended brooding, Southern Gothic coming-of-age debut novel.
Henry Aster's father, also named Henry, left Old Buckram, North
Carolina, a small Appalachian
town, to attend college and never planned to return. He married and
obtaining a law degree, all while knowing he had a great novel inside of
him. He did return to N.C. with his pregnant wife, Eleonore, just
before Henry's birth, when he learned his mother was ill. Henry's father
is a brilliant, passionate man who wants to be a writer. When he has
some notable success with a legal case, he buys a mansion perched on the
side of a mountain, nick-named "the vulture house." Here he raises his
family, Henry and his sister, Threnody, and struggles to write his novel
surrounded by a huge collection of books. He is a brilliant man,
tortured and drinking too much, who abandons his family.
Henry narrates the story of his father and his growing up in Old
Buckram. He follows the path of his father, leaving home and planning to
never return. He obtains a law degree. Eventually, he too returns to
the vulture house with a need to confront the memories left behind in
the house and find closure.
This is a beautifully written novel full of eloquent prose. It has a
wonderfully detailed and descriptive use of language that captures the
atmosphere of the settings. You can immerse yourself in this novel and
feel as if you were there with the characters. The characters are all
well-developed - becoming vivid and realistic. Although the tone of the
novel can be dark and depressing, there are some lighter moments that
relieve the tension. A bit of the momentum is lost when Henry meets and
pursues the young
woman named Story and we are pulled into her challenges. She has a
mystery of her own she is trying to unravel. Part of the ending was a
surprise to me, although, perhaps, suspected, but I appreciated the way
it was handled.
The Barrowfields is a great choice when you want to immerse
yourself in a dark, atmospheric novel that follows a family and
investigates the relationship between fathers and sons.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House via Library Thing.