Disclaimer: This book isn’t out until June! Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC. This one is worth the wait, I promise!
Literary coming-of-age stories with a supernatural twist are my kryptonite. Especially when it involves a teenage girl with potentially magic powers. For this reason, Revival Season was an absolute must-read as soon as I read the synopsis.
Fifteen-year-old Miriam Horton is heading out on the road with her family. For as long as she can remember, Miriam has spent the summer traveling across the US, visiting small towns to help her father host religion healing ceremonies. The tent goes up, Reverend Samuel Horton takes the stage, and the sick and desperate put their faith in a similarly sick and desperate man.
The reader learns quickly about Reverend Horton’s many flaws. His contempt for his disabled youngest daughter, the way he makes no qualms in striking his wife or Miriam, and his tendency for extreme physical violence towards anyone who questions his “gifts”. He hides his fear of women under sneers and snarls. As Miriam begins to see the cracks in her family, she discovers her own talent for healing, one which women are not supposed to possess.
Revival Season is a compelling, but brutal story. Monica West writes in very direct, simple prose. This is appropriate for the young age of our narrator, as well as her limited education. Interestingly, I did notice that Miriam’s vocabulary grew as she became more confident, and defiant against her father.
There are some really disturbing scenes of physical abuse dotted throughout this book. I quickly fell in love with Miriam, so the helplessness she mentions during these torturous scenes absolutely broke my heart. Every single character in this book, even the savage Reverend Horton, is so vivid. Their relationships are so clear, and their intentions well-defined. Despite the horror they faced, I loved spending time with Miriam, her siblings, and her mother.
One of the main reasons I raced through this book, is that I badly wanted Miriam’s father to get some sort of spectacular punishment for all the hurt and misery he inflicted on his family. In this regard, I was initially let down. But the more I considered the final chapters, the ending seemed suitable for this quiet, often ambiguous tale. Did Miriam or her father possess healing powers? Taking into account everything else that happens in this book, it’s a minor question.
Revival Season is a story of faith, family, and fury. The evil in this world takes many, many forms, and this book reminds us that everyday terror does not come in the form of epic firestorms, but strategically delivered blows in an area easily hidden by clothing.
Revival Season is out in the US on June 15, 2021. Pre-order a copy from your bookseller of choice.