Southernmost by Silas House

southernmostAn ex-church pastor from a rural community finds his humanity and sense of home while running afoul of the law.

Asher Sharp heads a small Pentecostal church and is very close to his young son Justin, who is older than his years and a sensitive soul.  After a major flooding of the Cumberland River in Tennessee, Asher Sharp finds himself in a quandary when he offers hospitality to a gay couple.  His actions raise the ire of his church members, especially when the two men begin attending services at the church.

Asher admonishes the congregation in an overwrought sermon that is caught on phone and quickly goes viral.  The church votes him out.  His wife, adamantly strict in her beliefs, splits from Asher and gets full custody of their son, with Asher having very limited interaction with Justin.

As he stumbles with doubts of his own beliefs, and remembers his long ago rejection of his own gay brother Luke, Asher rashly takes his son on a trip to Key West, the origin of a series of enigmatic postcards that he thinks are from Luke.  He hopes to find his brother and make amends, although it’s a very long shot.

When they arrive there, the last thing that Asher expects from anyone is refuge, but he finds this from his employer, an inn owner who cooks incessantly and plays the piano, and another employee, who is avoiding her own demons as best as possible.  As Asher and Justin settle in to their new environment, they find Bell and Evona to be kindred spirits, a couple of damaged sorts who accept father and son without judgment.

With this improbable family, Asher and Justin make their secretive way, doing their best not to draw attention from the general public.  This is ever harder, with Asher’s video still circulating online, and Justin’s missing child picture appearing in the post office.

Southernmost is a novel that I wound up liking very much, and one of the first books in a while that had me in tears.  The settings – a flood-torn rural community, the colors and sounds of Key West – are vividly rendered.  The author also brings out the fears of a wanted man very well.  You will feel for Asher even as you grit your teeth.  He is flawed and fearful, a good man who does some unwise things, but has a true love for his child.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

 

 

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