Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fiction | Surviving, One Ghost at a Time

"The First Woman made the sun and moon out of quartz," he said, "but after they were set in the sky, she noticed all the sparkling bits left over. So she decided the dust could be made into extra lights for the night sky. But before she sent the new stars into the sky forever, she said, 'These are what I will use to write the laws for people for all time. Only what's written in the stars can be remembered forever. Such things can't be written on the water, because water is always shifting, and they can't be written in the sand because the wind will blow them away. You can't write the truth in the earth—it's always changing its shape.'"

I read Gin Phillips' The Well and the Mine ages ago, and though I don't really remember much about it now, I know I really liked it at the time. Therefore, I was excited to grab her (at the time) newest, Come In and Cover Me, at a library conference last year. Despite it sitting on my shelf for over a year and a half, though, I really had no idea what it was about when I recently picked it up to read. And to be honest, I alllllmost gave up on it about 30 pages in.

I am glad I didn't.

[And this right here is why I always feel the biggest apprehension at not finishing books. What if it turns out to be great???]

The main character, Ren, is an archaeologist that's been hunting a specific 12th-century pottery artist in the southwest since her grad school days. She's been summoned to a remote part of New Mexico by another archaeologist, Silas, who thinks he's found more evidence of her artist.

The story starts off slow. There's a lot of surface conversation and plot, and it takes a while before we really get to know our characters, particularly Ren. We see hints that she kind of isolates herself. She gets sucked into her work and doesn't seem to have much of a deep and meaningful personal life. And eventually we learn that Ren is unique because of something from her past; ever since her brother died in a car accident when she was a young tween, Ren has seen ghosts. Yes, ghosts. And this is what has drawn her into her profession—and why she's so good at it. She sees people and places from times past, leading her to what physical evidence remains. To her, it's the story behind the objects that matter. The lives of people who touched these tools or bowls or figurines and left them behind.

There isn't really any one thing easy to identify as to why I ended up enjoying this book. The story is part supernatural; it's part mystery/thriller (albeit not a very fast-paced or intense one); it's part historical fiction as we explore the lost Mimbres community. All these things contribute to an alluring story, but its main focus is, ultimately, our main character—her past, her pains, her relationships, and how she takes hold of her life that's been on autopilot.

And also, it's got some great quotable passages.

This was the thing she realized. That it was a staggering, unfathomable thing to want no one other than the one she had. To mentally scan the whole endless world, considering all its potentially brilliant, beautiful, perfectly unexplored loves, and to know that even their imaginary possibility fell short of this man sleeping under the curve of her elbow and knee, breathing against the weight of her fingertips.

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