Come In and Cover Me, by Gin Phillips.
You assumed the dead wanted their story told, that they wanted their lives to be known and remembered and understood. You had to assume that. Only occasionally did Ren allow for the possibility that they were happy sleeping, that they didn't want to be known, that they didn't need their stories told by people who dug in the dirt. That maybe it was the diggers who needed the stories. - from Come In and Cover Me -
Ren has been digging in the dirt for quite some time. Early in her archeology career, she uncovered a remarkable find -- the pottery of a prehistoric woman who seemed to be combining elements of two unique geographical areas in her art and whose pottery, decorated with parrots, is inspiring. Now thirty-seven years old, Ren is working in a museum when she gets a call that her artist's work may have been discovered miles from the original dig site. She rushes to the site in the Northern mountains of New Mexico, eager to see for herself what has been uncovered. It is there that she meets Silas, a man who is both nothing like Ren and very similar to her, and someone who recognizes that Ren may not just have luck on her side, but may be drawn to her finds by the voices of the dead.
Come In and Cover Me is Gin Phillips' second novel, a luminous book filled with the ghosts of the past and so stunningly written that it is hard to step away from it. Ren is a complex character, a woman who has emotionally retreated from others and clings to the ghost of her brother who died when Ren was only twelve. She has an uncanny ability to connect with the dead and her job as an archeologist puts her in the unique position to uncover their stories. Ren finds herself unusually linked to the prehistoric life of a young artist. As the line between the living and the dead grows thinner, Ren finds herself conflicted. She is drawn to Silas in a way she has never experienced before, and yet the past continues to tug at her heart and stunt her emotional growth.
The past was solid, weighable as cement. You could pull it out if you wanted to, but it was done and over, and could be wrapped up and stored without fear of it ever changing. - from Come In and Cover Me -
Come In and Cover Me is a rich story of love, loss, and letting go of the past in order to move into a future. Grief is an important theme in the novel. Ren's grief is buried, aching, ever present and limiting. She is submerged by it. She does not want to share it. She is stuck in the past. Ren's journey through her grief gives the reader insight into the idea of recovery, of becoming vulnerable again to love even though the threat of loss is so frightening.
This is also a novel about the importance of stories in our lives and how our personal histories provide the rich tapestry, the back drop, to who we become. It is through story which we gain the perspective we need to grow emotionally and it is through story where we find the inspiration to take risk. Ren sees the importance of story in the life of her long dead artist, but holds her own history deep within her. It is this personal growth, this struggle to let go of her own history and share it with someone else, which I found most satisfying in the novel.
Gin Phillips is a very talented writer. Her prose is radiant. I found myself sinking into this dream-like and beautifully crafted novel. Phillips draws the reader into a world of mystery and imagination as she brings to life the prehistoric characters whose skeletons now lie beneath the dirt of New Mexico. At once achingly sad and joyously hopeful, Come In and Cover Me is a haunting and poignant journey into the heart of a sensitive and enigmatic woman who discovers that it is never too late to heal one's heart.
I absolutely loved this book from the first page to the last ... it has everything I look for in a book: great characters, depth of emotion, original plot, gorgeous writing, and a message about what it means to be human. Don't be surprised if Come In and Cover Me shows up on my list of best reads for the year -- it really is that good.
- Quality of Writing: Five stars
- Characters: Five stars
- Plot: Five stars
Overall Rating: Five stars out of five
FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.
Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".