STARRED REVIEW
March 29, 2016

Jumping through time in Guatemala

By Kelly Kerney
Review by
A multigenerational, multi-viewpoint tale that’s a meditation on everything from history to cultural context to personal strife, Kelly Kerney’s second novel is an adept meditation on the weight of history.
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A multigenerational, multi-viewpoint tale that’s a meditation on everything from history to cultural context to personal strife, Kelly Kerney’s second novel is an adept meditation on the weight of history.

Hard Red Spring takes place in four different time periods over the course of nearly a century, all focused in some way on the history and culture of Guatemala—and on the 1902 disappearance of a young girl, who watches her family’s prospects get ripped to shreds. In 1954, the wife of the American ambassador to Guatemala enters into an affair that drives her to distraction. In 1983, a pair of missionaries get more than they bargained for, and their very faith is rattled. And finally, in 1999, a mother returns to her adopted daughter’s home country in the hope of learning about her child’s heritage and rekindling an old flame. All of these narrative threads are tied together by plot, as well as thematic resonance: These are all people in over their heads.

The novel begins with the 1902 storyline. Evie is American, but she’s obsessed with the mythology of her adoptive Guatemalan home, even attempting to snatch a doll left at a makeshift altar inside a cave near her home. We all like to hope that we’re going to glimpse something mystical in another culture, and in Evie we see that same curiosity. Kerney puts readers into the place of her characters, as they peer into a culture they may not ever understand. Interweaving stories of love, loss and confusion with beautiful prose and pacing, Hard Red Spring will pull readers through page after page.

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Hard Red Spring

Hard Red Spring

By Kelly Kerney
Viking
ISBN 9780525429012

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