Sing Them Home
By Stephanie Kallos
(Atlantic Monthly Press, Hardcover, 9780871139634, 560pp.)
Publication Date: January 2009
Sing Them Home is a moving portrait of three siblings who have lived in the shadow of unresolved grief since their mother’s disappearance when they were children. Everyone in Emlyn Springs knows the story of Hope Jones, the physician’s wife whose big dreams for their tiny town were lost along with her in the tornado of 1978. For Hope’s three young children, the stability of life with their preoccupied father, and with Viney, their mother’s spitfire best friend, is no match for Hope’s absence. Larken, the eldest, is now an art history professor who seeks in food an answer to a less tangible hunger; Gaelan, the son, is a telegenic weatherman who devotes his life to predicting the unpredictable; and the youngest, Bonnie, is a self-proclaimed archivist who combs roadsides for clues to her mother’s legacy, and permission to move on. When they’re summoned home after their father’s death, each sibling is forced to revisit the childhood tragedy that has defined their lives. With breathtaking lyricism, wisdom, and humor, Kallos explores the consequences of protecting those we love. Sing Them Home is a magnificent tapestry of lives connected and undone by tragedy, lives poisedunbeknownst to the charactersfor redemption.
Stephanie Kallos spent twenty years in the theater as an actress and teacher, and her short fiction has been nominated for both a Raymond Carver Award and a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of the highly-acclaimed novel, Broken for You, which won the 2005 Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association Award and was selected by Sue Monk Kidd for Today’s Book Club, going on to become a national best-seller.
1. Tornados frame this whirlwind of a book, those of 1978 and 2004 in Nebraska. How are these events both apocalyptic and miraculous? See pages 531-533 for a dizzying tornado experience.
Sing Them Home constantly surprises, changing voices, viewpoints, and tempos, mixing humor and pathos, and introducing a big cast of vividly portrayed characters, major and minor. Readers who admired Kallos’s first novel, Broken for You, will likely embrace Sing Them Home, and it will embrace them in return. It’s that sort of book.”--Diane White, Boston Globe
[Sing Them Home] is a book written for cold winter nights by the fire. . . . Kallos excels at teasing out the emotional damage wrought by [the Jones siblings’] absent mother and remote father. . . . [She] is working in a vast landscape here, both emotional and physical [and] she handles it all with grace, giving each character and plotline a satisfying finish, like chords resolving themselves.”Shawna Seed, The Dallas Morning News
"With empathy and wit, Kallos weaves together the stories of the living and the dead, creating a world in which love trumps loss and faith can summon redemption. The result is a magical novel that even cynics will close with a smile."Michelle Green, People (3½ out of 4 stars)
[Sing Them Home] is a welcome reminder that good contemporary writing can still move slowly. . . . The reader is left with a feeling that the author, the story and the characters have somehow been uncommonly generous in their presentation. . . . Death, loss and remembering are integral parts of the story, and the language of the book can be, at times, wonderfully elegiac and ruminative. . . . [Kallos’s] own genuine emotion infuses and drives the story.”Holly Silva, St. Louis Dispatch
Fans of Ann Patchett and Haven Kimmel should dive onto the sofa one wintry weekend with Stephanie Kallos’s wonderfully transportive second novel, Sing Them Home. . . . [A] keenly empathetic description of life in . . . . Emlyn Springs, one of those all-too-rare small towns in literature, rich in personality but mercifully free of broad, condescending cliché. . . . As the novel floats back and forth from past to present, Kallos patiently reveals the hurt and longing that’s pounding beneath the surface . . . [and] the ending may leave you feeling so wistful for these strange, sad people that you find yourself fantasizing about a trip to Nebraska.”Karen Valby, Entertainment Weekly (A-)
Not since the Wizard of Oz has a tornado been used to such potent literary effect. . . . Dorothy may have thought that there’s no place like home, but what happens when there’s no house left at the old address, and no real parent figure to go home to? The Jones siblings take a further step down the road to enlightenment: They learn that home is where the heart is. . . . Kallos performs ample wizardry in blending both tears and quirky humor in this tale of lost souls.”Barbara Lloyd McMichael, Seattle Times
A compelling portrait of three adult siblings struggling to come to terms with their father’s sudden death. . . . Kallos writes with sympathetic insight into the quirks of each of the survivors, bringing her readers a family saga tinged with mysticism, humor and pathos, and peopled with characters not soon forgotten.”Deborah Donovan, Bookpage
Sing Them Home ushers us into small-town life, with all its distinctive cultural nuances, eccentric personalities, and homegrown secrets. With the same beauty and lyricism of her first novel, Broken for You, Kallos stitches together a colorful patchwork of memories and images, creating a rich narrative fabric that develops and changes as it passes through each character’s hands.”Heather Paulson, Booklist
[A] fresh, invigorating novel . . . Kallos tenderly shows us [her characters’] failings as they stumble, in a realistic and satisfying manner, toward better selves. Highly recommended.”Library Journal (starred review)
Kallos’s enthralling second novel takes the reader by storm. . . . [Sing Them Home] will find a welcome audience in anyone who has experienced grief, struggled with family ties or, most importantly, appreciates blossoming talent.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Brilliant . . . A richly textured, deeply satisfying, and enduring reada whirlwind of aching sadness, secret histories, sex that’s by turns empty and angry and sloppy and transformative, moments of great sweetness and joy that are never saccharine, and ultimately, resolution and redemption that are well-earned and in no way false or forced. Before Sing Them Home, Kallos was already, arguably, the best first-novelist of the Aughts; now it’s abundantly clear that she’s becoming quite a bit more than that.”Stephan Nathans-Kelly, First Look Books