Genre: Literary Fiction / Friendship
Publisher: Other Press
Date of Publication: March 17, 2016
Number of Pages: 400
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Set in a small coal-mining town, Whisper Hollow is full of secrets, love, and betrayal, where Catholicism casts a long shadow and three courageous women make choices that will challenge our own moral convictions.
One morning in Verra, a town nestled into the hillsides of West Virginia, the young Myrthen Bergmann is playing tug-of-war with her twin, when her sister is killed. Unable to accept her own guilt, Myrthen excludes herself from all forms of friendship and affection and begins a twisted, haunted life dedicated to God. Meanwhile, her neighbor Alta Krol longs to be an artist even as her days are taken up caring for her widowed father and siblings. Everything changes when Myrthen marries the man Alta loves. Fourteen years later, we meet Lidia, a teenage girl in the same town, and her precocious son, Gabriel. When Gabriel starts telling eerily prescient stories that hint at Verra’s long-buried secrets, it’s not long before the townspeople begin to suspect that the boy harbors evil spirits—an irresistible state of affairs for Myrthen and her obsession with salvation. Rendered in exquisite prose, Whisper Hollow is an extended reflection on guilt, redemption and the affirmation of life in this early 20th century Appalachian community.
PRAISE FOR WHISPER HOLLOW . . .
~Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)
“Cander divinely delves into multiple points of view, crafting a collage of vibrant, layered characters while charting six decades of poignant, precise moments. A distinctive novel that sublimely measures the distressed though determined heartbeat of a small mountain community.”
~Shelf Awareness (STARRED REVIEW)
“Cander weaves together the stories of these varied characters across nearly five decades with skill and grace, and in her hands, Whisper Hollow grows into much more than the sum of its many parts. The result is a memorable novel about the bonds of town and family, the strength of friendships in unlikely places and the power of secrets to shape a life–or many lives–often without anyone even recognizing it.”
“Cander superbly envisions the town, its residents’ dynamics, and the early twentieth-century immigrant experience…[and] rewards the reader with…well-developed, believable characters whose mental fortitude and capacity to love linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page.”
“[Whisper Hollow] is inextricably rooted in West Virginia coal country—the rough locale that determines and intertwines [Cander’s] characters’ fates…Cander closely tracks how Myrthen’s and Alta’s romantic decisions unknowingly complicate each other’s lives in the lead-up to a tragic incident that bisects the novel…[and] admirably captures the lack of choice that men and women have in rural West Virginia.”
“Spare, elegant writing by the author of 11 Stories evokes a bleak atmosphere and creates a smooth, compelling narrative… much of the prose is so outstanding, this writer is clearly gifted. Give this literary, plot-driven novel to those who enjoy the West Virginia setting and who like a gentle handling of their tragedies.”
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NOVEMBER 11, 1944
Alta Pulaski covered her husband and son’s dinner of halushki and rogale for dessert with a dishtowel and set it on the kitchen table with a note: Gone up the hill for a bit. Walter was at work underground, and Abel—who would be thirteen in two weeks but was already as tall as a man and ready to be one—was going rabbit hunting with his friends. She tied a green woolen scarf around her pinned hair, still short while other women had started to let theirs grow longer to contrast the war rationing and the somber mood of the day. She gathered up her metal paint box and an empty Ball jar, and closed the rattletrap back door with a slam on the heavy scent of butter noodles and cabbage for the bracing quarter mile hike.
All the way up she thought of her painting. She’d started it already, rendering individual leaves on dampened paper—red and yellow sassafras, scarlet-orange hornbeam, bright yellow witch hazel, rust and crimson oaks. She loved translating the scents and colors of leaves into textures. Dry brush, stippling, a dash of salt from her kitchen, a scratch of veins into wet paint with a bobby pin pulled from against her temple. To make it seem more real, she used water from the mountain brook near her secluded perch. Used dry leaves from the ground for blotting.
Her mind had long forgotten her girlhood fantasies of the forest beyond the southern coalfields of West Virginia. Instead, she focused on the trees.
A hush of early November wind inclined them toward her, as though they were watching their own portrait appear limned in watercolor on the home-stretched paper she held on her lap. Among the prattle and gush of the leaves and water, she could hardly discern any other sounds. Small animals moving through foliage, returning to whatever they knew as home in the low, flattering light; katydids and tree crickets tuning their wings for their evening love serenades. It all blended into a cool-white rush of noise that lulled her into that part of herself that was neither dutiful wife nor artist but essential to both. There was no way she would have heard the slow footfalls of heavy boots that stopped a maple tree shadow’s length behind her.
Chris Cander is a novelist, children’s book author, screenplay writer, and writer-in-residence for Houston-based Writers in the Schools. Her novel Whisper Hollow was selected as an Indie Next pick and nominated for the 2015 Kirkus Prize in fiction and her award-winning novel 11 Stories was included in Kirkus’s best indie general fiction of 2013. Her children’s book The Word Burglar received the silver 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for Reading Skills & Literacy. Her animated feature film Germs! is currently in pre-production with Cinsesite in partnership with Comic Animations. Chris well knows that the pen is mightier than the sword, but she’s willing to wield one of those, too. A former fitness competitor and model, she currently holds a 3rd dan in taekwondo and is a certified ICSU Women’s Defensive Tactics Instructor. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Author’s Guild, the Writers’ League of Texas, PEN, and MENSA.
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