The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

The Hum and the Shiver is an unusual story that’s difficult to pin down and I’m not even going to try because it will just give away spoilers which I don’t want to do.  I went into this book not really knowing what to expect and so think you should do the same.

At the start of the story Bronwyn is returning home wounded from time in Iraq.  She’s hailed a hero and  everyone turns out to welcome her home and yet on actually reaching her home the welcome is somewhat different, even a little frosty.  It seems not everyone thinks Bronwyn is a hero and not everyone is pleased to see her return.

Bronwyn is part of the Tufa people.  The Tufa people have been around for longer than anyone can remember.  They were up in the mountains of East Tennessee even before the Europeans set foot there.  With their jet black hair and complexion they’re a distinctive group of people  Very close knit, they share secrets and speak to each other using there own sign language.  They don’t take easily to strangers and their music is not simply something played for entertainment value but has a much deeper rooted meaning that affects their whole livelihood and wellbeing.

When Bronwyn returns home she is both mentally and physically injured.  Being back amongst her people will fairly soon take care of her physical condition but whether or not she can settle down into the life that is expected, that in fact drove her away in the first place, is another matter.  Brownwyn has always been something of a rebel which is what drove her away from the restrictions the Tufa way of life placed on her in the first place.  However, things are happening at home.  Strange signs and warnings that the Tufa know only too well mean that death will be visiting soon.  Bronwyn needs to come to terms with her place and she needs to do so sooner rather than later.

I liked Bronwyn, in spite of herself.  She can certainly be a stroppy character  and she’s not afraid to tell people how it is in quite a brutal fashion but if you look beneath the surly exterior there’s more to Bronwyn than at first meets the eye.  She’s only twenty after all and doesn’t want to settle down to a life in the hills, all mapped out for her, this is why she ran away to start with – it’s strange though how she ran from one set of rules to another.  It’s sometimes difficult to remember how young she is in this story as such a lot of weight seems to rest on her shoulders and she does come across as more mature but then she’ll go and get all paranoid about not having shaved her legs or something and it makes you look at her with new eyes and remember she’s only just left her teens and yet already dealt with such a lot. Bronwyn is no soft and cuddly girlie though, she’s not really concerned with appearance and  has always been something of a rebel and not without good cause earned herself the title of ‘the Bronwynator’.  I liked the fact that Bronwyn isn’t all girlie, she’s not a jump at the sight of a mouse type girl and isn’t afraid of most things – except maybe not being able to remember her music.

The characterisation in this novel is again excellent not to mention the world building.  I quite literally could picture the place and the people easily.  It just doesn’t feel like a made up place, it feels like you could drive there tomorrow and meet these people.

The other main characters in the novel are Pafford, the local sheriff who seems to spend his time trying to scare people out of their pants for doing absolutely nothing at all (and all I will say here is a big high five to Bronwyn on that score for getting the better of him), Hicks, the grumpy old guy who sits on his porch expecting respect from everyone and seems to have the running of the place to a certain degree, he’s even more sinister than his regular old grumpiness prepares you for, Craig the new priest who is trying desperately to be accepted in this environment, Dwayne, Bronwyn’s ex boyfriend and general no-good nasty piece of work and Don Swayback who is just starting to come to terms with his own Tufa connections.  It’s a boiling pot of characters and everyone gets thrown into the mix.

I’m not going to say to much other than that.  This novel moves slowly, simmering quietly until the lid finally blows.  It will make you wonder if you’re really reading what you’re reading or whether you’ve just in fact misread it!!!  Sorry if that sounds a bit mysterious but that’s genuinely how it feels at points.  If you’re looking for all out action or adventure though this may not be to your liking it takes it’s time setting up the story and doesn’t just plough on in there just to satisfy the reader’s impatience.

In terms of criticisms, I don’t think I really had any (except maybe the fairly constant references to blow jobs! – come on give me a break, I get it, Bronwyn was sexually active).  Otherwise, I think this is well written and quite compelling.  I certainly didn’t see the twist towards the end and it almost had me in tears.  It’s a tough story about coming to terms with your own place in your family and community and the fact that sometimes you can be a square peg in a round hole.  And, there’s a little bit more to it than that – which interestingly may be based on certain myths or folklore – I would certainly be interested to find out more on that score and I think this is probably the set up for a series so I will hopefully have the opportunity to do so.


7 Responses to “The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe”

  1. Lisa (@EffingRainbow)

    Interesting! I have this one in my reading pile but haven’t gotten to it yet. I really should… But then I really should read the lot of them … 😀

    • lynnsbooks

      Reading all the books on your tbr is a bit like seeing a unicorn – not really likely to happen (in fact you’re probably more likely to see a unicorn because you probably keep adding to your tbr and making it even more daunting).
      Lynn 😀

  2. TBM

    I think this is the first time I’ve read blow jobs in a review. That gave me a chuckle. I wonder why the editor didn’t catch on to that.

    • lynnsbooks

      What really gives me a chuckle about the phrase ‘blow job’ is it’s just so wrong! Come on, there’s no blowing involved!!!
      Okay, I’ll stop there.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Carol

    I have this one sitting on my shelf. It seems like an interesting world. And I have a soft spot for Appalachian settings.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think the world building is really good and realistic. I look forward to seeing your review.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Hidden Gems | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Hum and the Shiver (Tufa #1) by Alex Bledsoe […]

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