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The Hum and the Shiver Review

October 21, 2013

alexAlex Bledsoe is really nice.  And that makes me feel guilty.  You see, I met him at JordanCon V, which was back in April, and he very graciously signed some books for me.  I was excited!  I had books!  Signed books even!  And then I got distracted by something shiny (a play and another art show) and didn’t finish The Hum and the Shiver for many months.  I actually finished the book in August and just haven’t gotten around to writing it up.  But!  Now I am and it shall be glowing!  Because I liked it very, very much.  (I’ve also got the first two books in the Eddie LaCrosse series to read and I’m very excited about those.)
shiverThe Hum and the Shiver is the first book in the Tufa series and is followed by Wisp of a Thing and the short story, Shall We Gather.
The Tufa live in the mountains of Cloud County, Tennessee.  They’ve been there as long as anyone knows, and they’ve never taken much to outsiders.  They were there when Europeans arrived, but they don’t quite seem to be related to any of the Native American groups around the area.  They’ve always been apart, making music and speaking to the Night Wind.  Music is inherent to the Tufa.  Some of them sing, some of them play, but they all know songs that can touch your soul.  Maybe they’re a little wild and maybe they’re a little scary, but they’ve always been there and they always will be.


Smoky Mountains – National Geographic

Bronwyn is a Hyatt; a pure-blood first daughter of the Tufa and a United States Army private.  She always danced to her own tune and that danced her right out of Cloud County and into the death and dust of Iraq.  Somehow, she was the only survivor of a horrible mission and the Army has brought her back home as a heroine.  She’s got pins and screws in her leg, and silence in her heart.  Whatever happened to her is blocking the music that is every Tufa’s birthright.
Unfortunately, Bronwyn doesn’t have time for a long, gentle healing.  Omens are indicating that her mother’s time is nearly up and Bronwyn herself has a haint attached to her, the ghost of another Tufa who also went with the army to Iraq and died there during the first Gulf War.  The omens and the haint all indicate that Bronwyn has a very short time to learn her mother’s song before it’s lost.  Her path is clearly laid out; learn her mother’s song, take her place as a first daughter, and have a daughter of her own.  Soon.  Family pressures, fear for her mother, PTSD, and the return of Bronwyn’s bad-news, ex-boyfriend are all swirling around in a very dangerous brew.
Meanwhile, we have Craig, the new minister for the Methodist Church just over the county line.  He’s an outsider trying to make a place for himself with the Tufa.  He doesn’t really know anything about their magic, or even their music, but he finds himself drawn to them.  Especially to Bronwyn.  The girl has a bad reputation around the area.  She was once knows as The Bronwynator for her disregard for rules and conventional morality.  Some people like to tell Craig about how she was always no good and that her “heroic rescue” was probably a manufactured publicity stunt.  Craig doesn’t care.  He sees a woman with a world of pain and a host of troubles.  But to reach Bronwyn he has to first understand the Tufa.  And that is something that has baffled people for centuries.
This was a fantastic book.  I actually listened to it on audio so I could preserve my signed paperback.  The narration is split with Emily Janice Card doing Bronwyn’s chapters and Stefan Rudniki recording Craig’s chapters.  I haven’t actually heard either of them before, but they were both very good.
This is not a fast paced book.  It’s full of gentle swells and dips.  From a geographic perspective, it’s the rolling Smokies rather than the jagged Rockies.  There are threats and danger, but there isn’t a climactic battle at the end.  Don’t go into this looking for a fast, frantic story.  Most of the book is about figuring out how to live a life that doesn’t quite fit.  Bronwyn isn’t the Bronwynator anymore.  Craig is out of his element.  Bronwyn’s mother is facing the end of her life and wondering if it was worth it.
There are moments that are deeply disturbing, but they all weave together.  It’s sort of like that bit of salt you have to add in baking to make the final product come out right.  Or a musical dissonance that makes you feel so much better when it resolves than if it had never existed to begin with.  This book is firmly on my list of favorites.



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