“Southernmost” by Silas House

I received a copy of Southernmost from NetGalley and Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.

I got a little nervous when the book began with a Pentecostal preacher and his uber-devout white suffering but surviving a massive flood just after gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court. My nerves were because I hadn’t realized the extent to which this book is based in evangelical religion. That fault is mine.

That being said, things took a turn I was not expecting when Asher, the Pentecostal preacher, stood up for something he wasn’t sure he even understood – same-sex love.

Things escalate very quickly for the first third of House’s novel. As Asher preached acceptance and tolerance but was rebuffed by his congregation, he quickly found himself on the road to divorce, tried to fight to keep his son, assaulted his mother-in-law, and kidnapped his son. I was left with the nagging question of how Asher could be a social media hero of inclusivity if he, you know, commits assault and kidnapping because someone, his wife, didn’t agree with his awakening. Hmm… I hadn’t realized the irony of that as I read the book, but I see it now as I write this review.

Things slow to a crawl in the second third of the novel. The up-side of the slow march was that it is impossible to know how the complicated tale of Asher Sharp’s voyage of self-discovery can possibly end. Whether it ends well or ends badly, there are scant few clues in the narrative. But this part of Asher’s journey takes place in Key West, a location chosen because he thinks his estranged brother might be there – it seems important to mention that he and Luke are estranged because Asher was wholly intolerant when Luke came out of the closet. With his evolving way of thinking, he wants to make amends. Things are tedious but there is the potential for a fantastic finish.

The final third of the novel begins with some promise when, for a variety of reasons, Asher opens up to Bell and Evona, the two Key West women who gave he and Justin a safe space. The promise fades a little when it’s made clear that they knew all along that he was not quite as unremarkable as he hoped to present himself. And he might not have opened up to them were it not for seeing himself and Justin on the Have You Seen Me? flyers at the post office.

It all ends a bit predictably, which is not to say badly. It ends as it should, with Asher following through on being an example of how life should be lived, and corrected.

The moral of House’s book is to not hate others because they are different than you. It is an important lesson, but it does get a little lost in frantic and then slow pacing of this book. The point is made at the expense of pacing and

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