Fallen Land: A Novel
An Indie Next pick, an Okra 2016 Winter Selection, and a SIBA Bestseller!
Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward. Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South. Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers. In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives. Dramatic and thrillingly written with an uncanny eye for glimpses of beauty in a ravaged landscape, Fallen Land is a love story at its core, and an unusually assured first novel by award-winning young author Taylor Brown.
Index finger. “This here is white gold in these hills. That climb’s steep enough to skin ye nose. No man goads himself straight up like that less he’s after trouble. That or fleeing it. It’s a pretty sight up here, but nobody comes just to look.” Callum wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “I reckon not,” he said. He looked out at the horizon. Pretty it was. The nearest hills jutted visibly into the sky; the farther ones diminished quickly into the night. Above them the stars. They seemed.
Like to catch your death.” She started back into the cabin. “I was warming a blanket for you by the stove.” Callum stood from the tub, alone, his innards warm despite the gooseflesh that bound him, his belly hot. He slicked the water off him with the flats of his hands—this arm and that, front of leg, back of leg—trying not to wet the dressing. He looked again to the sky, his feet pressed against each other for warmth, his head tottering a little atop its perch. The liquor roared in his temples.
Fast, as if in flight. * * * “You seen a surgeon with gold spectacles, gray mustache?” The trudging soldiers looked up at him on the horse. White eyes in smoked faces. Some were hardly older than he was. Maybe a year. They shook their heads or shrugged, went back to their labor. Trudge, trudge, trudge. He continued up the line, asking for the surgeon. They crossed a river by pontoon bridge. The water was black. Broad mangrove roots shouldered from the shallows. The guards let him pass on.
Slumping. He shook his head. “You don’t understand.” The surgeon replaced his spectacles, hooking the curved wires behind his ears. The apron that hung from his neck was bow-tied at the rear, the front slashed and splattered darkly with the undoings of so many men. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t.” He crossed his arms. “They went south off the road. That much I know. I’m sorry.” Callum just nodded, saying nothing. He turned and started west through the camp. He needed to backtrack along the.
Open as he looked at Callum, like he was looking at a ghost. He was twelve. The brothers nodded a last time and rode on toward the stables, dismounting to lead their horses into the stalls. Callum walked on down the road, too light of foot to break the bleached shells. They simply murmured beneath him, gossiping perhaps about this new stable groom. A ways down he took the footpath that ran along the creek. He stopped, as he always did, at the little bluff where the stone monuments loomed under.