James Lee Burke just published his greatest novel

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Our narrator is Aaron Holland Broussard. This story takes place in these times of pandemic. In the first chapter, two young hoodlums appear in his home and paint a swastika on his barn. He confronts them as they yell at him, “You don’t belong here!” then “Go somewhere else!”

His daughter Fannie Mae died recently; he is overwhelmed with grief. He can’t stop thinking about her. He feels like there is “a hole the size of a pie plate in the center of my chest. I can not breathe. I feel like I’m living a nightmare that belongs to someone else’s mind.

Then these white supremacists appeared. Broussard is interested in one of them. He hires him to do some work around his house. His generosity and his compassion for this lost young man turn against him. Broussard finds himself sucked into a swirling vortex of hatred that has been simmering ever since humans walked the earth.

Readers of Burke’s recent Holland family novels will recognize some familiar themes here – racism, drug addiction and the haunted places where Indigenous peoples were exterminated in the 19th century. There are many aspects of what some might call the supernatural. Broussard continues to see Fannie Mae. His daughter speaks to him from beyond the grave.

These pages are haunted by specters and ghosts. Some of them are bad. Through many talks with Jim, I have come to understand that he does not consider these entities unusual; they are part of life that we can choose to ignore at our peril. And Burke’s lyrical descriptions of nature are, as always, utterly captivating.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews the authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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