Words In: Softspoken by Lucius Shepard

Sanie Bullard has accompanied her husband Jackson back to his rural home town in South Carolina, where Jackson wants to be left alone to study for the bar. Sanie is on her own more than she’d like, and this forces her to confront just how lacking her marriage is. Jackson’s ancestral home, occupied by his crazy brother and sister, seems to be haunted by some kind of quiet, whispering spirit. Sanie keeps herself occupied by hanging around down at the country store half a mile down the road, and finds herself drawn by the flirtations of a local mechanic. The story feels like it’s less about the haunting and its affect on the Bullard clan over the generations, and more about Sanie feeling stuck in a bad marriage, trying to work up the courage or energy to do something about it.

Shepard writes beautiful, lush and detailed descriptions of the world of the story. He also does a great job getting into the head of the main character as well as drawing convincing portraits of the characters around her. The Southern Gothic quality is well done. I rate this book an extra star just for these things, matters of the writer’s craft.

On the other hand, I found the story too static, lacking even the amount of progression you’d normally find in a short story.

If you’re more interested in expressive writing than plot, and don’t mind a story that ends not too far from where it began, you may really love this. My own judgment is that I found a lot to like about the writing itself but found the story somewhat slight. I’ll gladly investigate Shepard’s other work, but the only recommendation I can give this book is conditional. Some readers will enjoy the stillness, others will be irritated at the “stuck” characters and situations.

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