Contemporary, Drama, Family

The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis

I don’t usually read too many literary fiction novels, and it’s a shame because they are usually beautifully written and full of emotion. I was glad to have been given the chance to read this one by Penguin Random House through their First to Read program!

Just before Henry Aster was born, his father decides to move back home with his pregnant wife. It is with great reluctance that he does this, for his Appalachian hometown neither understands nor appreciates his literary ambitions. With his young family instilled in an immense house, Henry Sr. begins to embark on his literary journey. Henry Jr. grows up watching his brilliant father work towards his dreams…. but when tragedy strikes, his reverences for his father turns poisonous. As soon as he is able, Henry Jr. leaves home, promising to never return. And then, he does.

When I first began to read this novel, I spent a lot of time simply admiring the prose and the detailed story being cultivated. At the same time, I wondered where exactly the author was going to go with this novel. In the beginning, I was unsure about how I felt about the story’s progression. But all of that changed as the story continued. Told from the perspective of Henry Aster Jr., this story shows how his family’s past haunts him even as he distances himself from his childhood. We see Henry as he attempts to make friends, and become an individual in his own right … all while he ends up following the exact same route as his father. We watch as he falls in and out of love, deals with his anger and guilt over his father’s betrayal. By the time I got to the final chapter of this story, I was mesmerized – not only by the prose but also by Henry himself. We see how family can shape you, can drive you away, can bring out the best and the worst out of you. This novel made me think and it definitely made me feel. I’m finding it difficult to articulate my thoughts and feelings, because there are just so many! This novel made me reflect on my own relationships with my family and my friends, and it made me reflect on how these interactions have shaped me into the person I am today and the person I will become in the future. This is a wonderful debut novel, and I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys literary fiction!

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the publisher for this advanced review copy, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Blogging for Books for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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