Of Faith and Floods
Silas House’s new novel takes on universal themes
BY KIM THOMAS
Kentucky author Silas House first learned that language has power while “sitting on the porch with my parents and aunts and uncles, hearing them tell stories that brought the past alive.”
Lee Smith describes his latest work, Southernmost, as “A spiritual journey, a love story, and a classic road novel . . . With its themes of acceptance and equality, Southernmost holds a special meaning for America right now, with relevance even beyond its memorable story.”
From Kim Davis to social media viciousness to My Morning Jacket, it’s a contemporary story that means to poke us in the right places. It takes on the American search for reconciliation between old ways and new ways. New Testament believers will be thrilled to experience the emotional and intellectual journey of a southern Evangelical preacher who seeks to make amends with embers from his past in the wake of a Biblical level flood.
Asked about the implications of the title, he says, “I like it when a title is mysterious until the book has been read, and then it makes perfect sense. The title means several things. Most obvious is that it’s set in Key West, which is the southernmost point in the contiguous United States. But the title is also a reference to how I think the South is a microcosm of the entire nation whereas a lot of the country would think of it more as The Other. Writing about The South is interesting because everyone has a preconceived notion of this region more than any other, so it’s always intriguing to challenge some of those notions and expand ideas of humanity.”
With the compelling main character a preacher, has House ever considered a pastoral path? “I grew up in a very strict Holiness church and in our community the highest reverence was reserved for preachers,” he says, adding “I think it would have thrilled my parents if I had gone into the ministry, but they never pressured me into that. I think there are many ways to be kind and show compassion and writing is one of those because to me the most essential ingredient of being a writer—or any kind of artist—is to be empathetic. As a writer, I always want to be of service. In this novel I really wanted to get under the skin of a preacher and show him evolving and doubting and believing in ways we’re not used to preachers being shown.”
Of the novel’s universal themes, House says, “the impetus for the book was asking how far my main character would go to protect his child, and that’s something that all parents have thought about in one way or another. I think it’s my best book because it does have such propulsion because of that question, but also because I wanted every sentence to really shine.”
Silas House will be reading and signing Southernmost June 7 at Brier Books in Lexington.
This article also appears on page 5 of the June 2018 print edition of Ace.
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