Hill, Robert. “The Remnants”, Forest Avenue Press, 2016.
Welcome to New Eden
We have all visited or heard of a town like New Eden, a town that has more than its share of strange residents. New Eden, like others places, is also a town filled with secrets, unrequited loves and what might be considered to be taboos. (But then one man’s taboo can be another man’s desire). As two ninety-plus-years-old “New Edeners” are finishing preparations for their annual tea, a third has announced that he plans to make a bold announcement that could interrupt the fun and change the town forever. Writer Robert Hill brings us quite a look at “the collective memory of a community”. If you are looking for something that will take you away from the doldrums of life or if you just want to read a good book, “The Remnants” is for you. It is a great read to lose yourself in. After all, with characters named Intermediate Hurlbutt and Righteous Whiskerhooven, how can you lose? Written as something-of-farce, this is a book about family, friendship, sharing, tradition, relationships, hopes and expectations. We are taken back to the shared memories that took place over the course of a hundred years
It is about friendship and family, about what we offer ourselves and what we deny; it is about tradition and expectation and the constant and changing nature of relationships. As we read, we move over a bittersweet hundred years and Robert Hill pokes fun at life.
While “The Remnants” is set in New Eden in could be set in any known place at an unknown time. Those who live there are elderly and they are the town are the end of their days It’s Kennesaw Belvedere’s 99th birthday, and like every year, he and his friend True Bliss are going to celebrate like they have for the past ninety-plus years by having saltines and sardines.
As Kennesaw heads to True’s house, his recounts his life to himself and remembers that his parents were hard on him and, as in every other year, he thinks about how he felt for another resident but pushed those feelings aside. As we all would probably do, he thinks about getting older and the mental and physical pains that go along with passing years.
What Kennesaw does not know is that his old friend Hunko Minton is on his way to True’s house with plans to release a secret that he has held for way too long. determined to stop the birthday tea and reveal a secret he has kept (mostly) hidden for so long.
Because of intermarriage among the citizens of New Eden, the town has quite a population of those with unique physical and mental characteristics. On the other hand, they share similar hopes and desires as everyone has and they are hurt when things do not go according to plan. I do not believe I that I have met so many odd characters in one book and I am certain that I have never read anything quite like this before. It is touching and sensitive and ribald and funny all at the same time.
In order to really get into and enjoy the book, it is best to suspend reality and allow the town to pull you in. You will see and feel that the characters that are so wonderfully drawn become your friends during the course of the even and some will stay with you after you close the books’ covers. We all know that life is far from perfect but that is no reason not to celebrate it as Robert Hill does.
I always look to a weekend or two in Martha’s Vineyard and think of it as a visit to small town America but I am thinking this year I can save the money I usually spend to go there and read this instead. And yes, it is possible to reread whenever you want to escape today’s world. (Best of all is that there are presidential primaries in it).