Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: LGBTQ, prejudice, religion, kidnapping, divorce.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Local Kentucky author Silas House is considered a treasure to the area. Being relatively new, I didn’t know much about him or his books, but my book club leader Megan told me he was an author I HAD to check out. So while browsing shelves a few weeks ago, I picked up his latest novel, Southernmost. I knew House was going to be doing a book discussion in June at a local bookshop in Louisville, so I thought I’d read it sometime before then. However, a pop-up event for March 7th showed up on Facebook in Lexington, so I thought, well I’ll go see him and then listen to the audiobook of Southernmost and report about both! So you can read about the event here, or stay tuned for the review!
In the novel, Asher Sharp is an evangelical preacher, married to a woman named Lydia, and father to a son named Justin. A flood has just decimated their small town in Tennessee, and Asher’s brother, Luke, comes looking for shelter and a place at their church. After years of regret for turning him away when he came out as gay to Asher, he thinks this is an opportunity to heal their relationship- but then his wife, still stuck in her prejudice, disagrees. This starts a chain reaction that leads to Asher deciding to rise above and renounce his old ways, causing the church to cast him out. From there, he realizes that his marriage isn’t working anymore, especially as Lydia starts to care more about church and being “prayed for in this difficult time”, instead of spending more time with her son, who is not only being bullied at school, but confused and heartbroken over all the sudden changes.
Asher and Lydia go to a hearing for custody over Justin, and to Asher’s dismay, he’ll barely see him. So he decides to take matters into his own hands and kidnaps Justin, heading to the southernmost point of the continental US- Key West. From there, they spend time not only working on their father/son relationship, but learning about the world they live in, and how it’s much bigger and more diverse than the prejudices of their hometown.
While listening to the book, I noted diversity, tolerance, and acceptance are all themes throughout Southernmost, as well as spirituality and the bond between father and son. There are so many beautiful passages about God and religion, and about how humans have twisted the good book to make it mean whatever they want it too- for good or bad. Sexuality is obviously a big hot-button topic among the religious, and as House pointed out in his discussion, there aren’t that many fictional books out there tackling the subject. In Southernmost, we get to see the multi-dimensional main character renounce his old prejudiced ways and accept that God means love, and that means accepting people for who they are and the choices they make. As a father who kidnaps his own son, Asher also exemplifies that sentiment.
Overall, House’s novel is beautifully written, the audiobook is wonderfully read (by narrator Charlie Thurston), and either medium should definitely be a part of your book collection.
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Books
TL/DR: Southernmost by Silas House is a southern fiction drama about a man’s choice to depart from his personal and congregational prejudice against the LGBTQ community- even if it means running away from it all with his son.
Read it? Yes.
Recommend it? Yes, though it does have mature content, so only recommended to suitable audiences.
Buy it? This is a slow burn, so it might not be for everyone. I suggest reading a copy, then purchasing your own if you love the novel (as I did!)
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads:
- The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Silas House “Southernmost” Book Discussion & Signing