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Dust Bath Revival (Feral Seasons Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 190 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||
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I don't like zombie stories. But this one ... ate my brain. (sorry)
"Hey, are you still working on that thing?" I'd ask. "When do I get more about the Florida zombies?"
Pretty pesty behavior, as far as writers go - but this is worth the wait.
Hank's world is so hot and full of glare that I found myself squinting when I read it. The world is rich enough that I could *smell* it. I've met these people - the rural Southern poor, with their clannishness and their generosity, their practicality, and the lovingly crafted boxes each person's supposed to fit into.
Hank doesn't fit into her box, and one of the things I most love about her is that she doesn't give one damn about it. She never castigates herself for being fat, for being queer, for being a girl. She's comfortable in her own skin in a way that any teenager would envy. This isn't to say that she's perfect - she makes a lot of mistakes, and some pretty bad decisions along the way. But they're true mistakes and decisions: the kinds of mishaps we all put ourselves into when we're stumbling around, feeling desperate.
This doesn't tell you anything about the plot, I know. There's been a disaster, and the trappings of civilization don't work like they used to. The Reborn haunt the wilderness, informed only by their hunger. After a sleepy life outside a sleepy Florida town, Hank finds herself, at 16, on her own in the Florida wilderness. Stuff Happens from there - you don't want to hear it from me, Kirby's version is way better.
Kirby's novel (her debut!) is subversive in the best kind of way. It takes up issues of agency, and hunger, in its teeth and, through Hank's stubborn refusal to be anything other than who she is, makes them serve her story well.
Now I need to keep causing a ruckus until I get the sequel.
Hank considers herself pretty normal, growing up in a small town in a Florida where the US never really recovered from the dust bowl for a number of reasons. Sure, she's a little short and a little round and a little interested in girls and a little bit feral, but that's normal for Hank.
But Normal pretty much ends with the Revival Tent come to stay a spell at the end of her Aunt's driveway. I think if you had to ask Hank when everything changed for better or worse, that's the moment she'd point to.
Hank is a strongly fleshed-out character and I mean that in a number of senses; and senses are exactly what the book is about and a strong part of Kirby's writing. One of the most important things about Hank is how embodied she is: particularly because of the first person narrative choice, we see what she sees and feel what she feels (physically and emotionally) but we also smell what she smells and hear what she hears... and we taste what she tastes. This sense of Hank, of em-body-ment, is critical both to the plot and to understanding Hank herself: and make no mistake, Hank herself is the focus here. Life set her feet on a path long before she realized there was anywhere to go, and an important part of the story is Hank learning to inhabit her life as well as her body.
This is a book in which magic and history and Florida and science all get scrunched up and then smoothed out again into a shape neither the reader nor Hank can anticipate. It's a dark and fascinating ride.
(note: this review was based on an advance copy of the novel. No compensation was received in return for this review.)