Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Come In and Cover Me

I received my ARC of Come In and Cover Me by Gin Phillips through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  The book is set to be released on 12 January, so keep an eye out!  Because my copy is an uncorrected proof, things may have been changed for the finished version (though I hope not too much, because I really enjoyed this book!)

Come In and Cover Me follows Ren, an archaeologist who specializes in pottery.  When Ren is in the field, the sites speak to her, but it isn't just the passion for the work - she can see ghosts of people who once inhabited the site, and they sometimes point her in the right direction for somewhere to dig, or can give her clues as to the interpretation of a find.  Her colleagues believe she has incredible intuition, that she just gets a feeling about a place, and leave it at that.  She's never told anyone what she sees, though she's an extremely private person in general anyway - she's closed herself off since the death of her brother in a car accident when she was twelve years old.

It's because of one of these ghosts that she has made such a big name for herself, when she was led to the location of some intact Mimbres bowls, all seemingly made by the same person.  When items turn up at a different site that also appear to have been made by Ren's artist, she is invited to come take a look.  Working in the canyon is Ed, a colleague and former mentor; Paul, the landowner's son, who is interested in possibly becoming an archaeologist himself someday; and another archaeologist, Silas Cooper, who has a knack for identifying bones.  Ren and Silas are drawn to each other, but while Silas is ready with a story or an anecdote whenever the opportunity presents itself, Ren is extremely guarded.  She's also preoccupied with the ghost of her Mimbres artist coming to her again in the canyon; at this site, though, she's joined with another ghost - the Parrot Woman.

Ren tries to piece together the story of these women, but Silas wants some pieces of Ren's story; can she let go of her ghosts and allow herself to be close to someone tangible?

When I read the synopsis of this book on the LTER list, I knew I had to request it, because Come In and Cover Me combines two of my great loves - archaeology and ghosts.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to see that I had won a copy for review!  Sometimes when you are very excited about something, it ends up not quite meeting your expectations, but Phillips did not disappoint me at all.

I really liked the characters; I felt for Ren, and I was rooting for Silas.  The secondary characters weren't as fleshed out, but they weren't exactly flat, either.  They just weren't really around as much.  I enjoyed the scenes where Ren is remembering events from her youth, and it's easy to see from the things she went through, why it might be difficult for her to open up to people.  I really felt for Silas, trying to get to know Ren as she tries to close herself off.  I love how patient he is, even though he obviously gets frustrated with her at times.  It was refreshing to read a novel that isn't centered around 20-somethings; Ren and Silas are closer to twice that.  It's also not at all your typical romance - it's more a story about a woman learning to let go of the past and move on.

The ghost aspect of the story had potential to be very corny and disappointing, but I think Phillips did a fantastic job with it; everything flowed together very nicely, and Ren's interactions with them weren't over-the-top, and there's not a religious element to any of it, either.

As an anthropology student, I really appreciated the obvious research Phillips put into getting the details right about the archaeology in the novel.  It reads very real to me, with none of the sensational Indiana Jones/Lara Croft type excitement.  It's hot, dirty manual labor; they are outside all day, crouching and digging and tediously brushing to uncover not much of anything in terms of quantity.  There is protocol to be followed when human remains are uncovered, to comply with NAGPRA.  Bad weather means not a break from working, but a full day of sitting inside to better catalog and look at their finds more closely, preparing samples for lab testing.  Phillips did her homework with this, and it shows.

Beyond all this, I think that Phillips writes beautifully - she has a way of pulling you into the story and keeping you there, and after reading this one, I'm hoping to find a copy of her first novel, The Well and the Mine.  That one has gotten good press, and Come In and Cover Me is a superb sophomore novel.



Riverhead Books

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1 comment:

  1. Great review! It sounds really different, and I added it to my TBR list!