Thursday, June 11, 2015

book cover reveal: the remnants

I had more than the usual excitement and anxiety starting work on the book cover design for the upcoming Forest Avenue Press title The Remnants by Robert Hill. A first for me: it's a book I've known for quite some time, since before FAP signed it to be published. Robert's first novel, When All Is Said and Done (Graywolf Press), was shortlisted for the Oregon Book Award and is a knockout. And The Remnants is one of the most unique and beautiful books I've ever read.

So you get a better idea of the themes I was mulling, here's the description of the book:

The town of New Eden, peopled with hereditary oddities, has arrived at its last days. As two near-centenarian citizens prepare for their annual birthday tea, a third vows to interrupt the proceedings with a bold declaration. The Remnants cartwheels rambunctiously through the lives of wood-splitters, garment-menders, and chervil farmers, while exposing an electrical undercurrent of secrets, taboos, and unfulfilled longings. With his signature wit and wordplay, Robert Hill delivers a bittersweet gut-buster of an elegy to the collective memory of a community.

Finally, I started thinking about what the title really means. The Remnants. It's such a perfect title because it means one thing and it means one thing more and it means one thing more. The people in New Eden are definitely remnants, the last vestiges of a larger community. Broken-off pieces of a larger world. But in the lives of these people, too, memories are half-forgotten remnants. Old wishes and longings are half-buried remnants. Here at the end of things, there's not much left that isn't fractured and mostly lost. But even so, you can see the persistent power of life reaching up even as the last of New Eden is crumbling away.

An excerpt!

As the wind picks up and the sky grays over, Kennesaw trudges the remaining miles into town, catching his breath by the hole in the stone wall at Nedewen Field where dust returns to dust. He passes the broken stone markers that show their old age like chipped teeth in a mouth full of mourning, and lays to rest the memories of those who have gone before him. He continues on down the gravel road and crosses the tangled patch that had once been the village green, and past the strip of acre beside the barn behind True’s house where the prized row of Granny-Macs once stood. It’s taken him all of the morning and most of the afternoon and much of the last ninety-nine years to reach here. The weather is due to turn calamitous. Kennesaw runs a moist hand across his moist scalp as he continues on his way to True’s. He approaches her plain front gate where he rests a moment before starting up again and making his way up her walkway and onto her front stone slab, which is only a pebble less settled than his.

One arm pumping and then the other. One leg shuffling and then the other. One ache and then another and then another and then another. And this is how the aged walk into heaven.

He’s ninety-nine. It’s been a long journey. Tea sounds good to him.


The Remnants will be out March 2016. For more info on this and Forest Avenue Press' other titles, check out their website here.