Robert Hill’s The Remnants is like dark chocolate. I’m not talking mid-range here; The Remnants is nuanced, it is single-source, it is dusted with gold flake and basil sugar. What I’m saying is that it’s not for people who like milk chocolate.
There are books to read on beaches or planes with plot lines we expect, and they're satisfying in the way that is socially acceptable enough to know that, if we recommend these same books to our moms or our neighbors or our friends who fall into the occasional-reader category, they, too, will be glad to have spent time in the narrative worlds we’ve offered. They’re Hershey’s bars.
The Remnants is on the other side of the spectrum. It is for aficionados, for readers who let sentences dissolve blissfully on their tongues, for those who can’t help but swoon over the playful and well-executed marriage of high diction to character names like Intermediate Hurlbutt and Righteous Whiskerhooven. It’s a masterpiece meant not for plot-lovers, but for literati on the search for an uncommon satisfaction.
It is Our Town meets incest, without the criminal implication of such, and with more charm. I know, you’re not sure about that last sentence, but it’s true, as I tried to explain to my mother-in-law when I excitedly read aloud to her a drop-dead, gorgeously written scene, a jolly and frolicsome utilization of advanced diction and the poetry of language, which is essentially about a bunch of boys jerking off into a body of water called Grunts Pond. (She responded by smiling and sipping her tea; like I said, it’s not for everyone.)
It is about friendship and family, about what we offer ourselves and what we deny; it is about tradition and expectation and the constant and changing nature of relationships. As we read, we move over a bittersweet hundred years of shared memory (and genes), the whole while being reminded of the farce and wit of life.
I’ve probably never been as consistently entertained, on a sentence level, as when devouring this book. If you like dark chocolate and wordplay — “It had been in him in his infancy, it was the tickle in his ribs and gist of his ism, and it rimmed him in crimson for the rest of his life.” — you can pre-order The Remnants here.
Robert Hill is a New Englander by birth, a West Coaster by choice, and an Oregonian by osmosis. As a writer, he has worked in advertising, entertainment, education software, and not-for-profit fundraising. He is a recipient of a Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship and a Breadloaf Writers Conference Fellowship. His debut novel, When All is Said and Done (Greywolf Press), was shortlisted for the Oregon Book Awards’ Ken Kesey Award for fiction.
The Remnants is published by Forest Avenue Press.
Reviewed by Brandi Dawn Cornelius.