Set in Virginia during the Civil War and a century beyond, this novel by the award-winning author of THE YELLOW BIRDS explores the brutal legacy of violence and race in American society.
Spanning over one hundred years, from the antebellum era to the 1980's, A Shout in the Ruins examines the fates of a diverse cast of characters connected to Beauvais Plantation in Chesterfield County, Virginia. When war arrives, the master of Beauvais, Anthony Levallios, foresees that mastery in a new America will be measured not in acres of tobacco under cultivation by his slaves, but in industry and capital. A grievously wounded Confederate veteran loses his grip on a world he no longer understands, and his daughter finds herself married to Levallois, an arrangement that feels little better than imprisonment. And two people enslaved at Beauvais plantation, Nurse and Rawls, overcome impossible odds to be together, only to find that the promise of coming freedom may not be something they will live to see.
Seamlessly interwoven is the story of George Seldom, a man orphaned by the storm of the Civil War, looking back from the 1950s on the void where his childhood ought to have been. Watching the government destroy his neighborhood to build a stretch of the interstate highway system through Richmond, Virginia, and recognizing that his days on earth are coming to an end, he travels south to try to fill in that void. With the help of a young woman, he goes in search of his beginnings, all the while remembering the life that witnessed so much change during the 20th century, and so much that didn't. As the narrative finds that young woman farther in the future, now in her middle age, the questions remain: How do we live in a world built on the suffering of others? And can love exist in a place where for 400 years violence has been the strongest form of intimacy?
Written with the same emotional intensity, harrowing realism, and poetic precision that made THE YELLOW BIRDS one of the most celebrated novels of the past decade, A SHOUT IN THE RUINS cements Powers' place in the forefront of American letters and demands that we reckon with the moral weight of our troubling history.