Heaven Should Fall, the second novel by Rebecca Coleman, author of The Kingdom of Childhood, opens with the striking scene of a young wife coming out to the shed behind the house to call her handsome husband Cade to lunch, calmly observing to herself that the project he’s finishing up is a pipe bomb, which he adds to a nearby box of already-completed pipe bombs. After hooking readers with those first two pages, the story jumps back to many months earlier, with Jill and Cade engaged to be married but still in college at the University of Maryland, before circumstances force them to move in with Cade’s family in northern New Hampshire, where Jill finally meets the dysfunctional Olmstead clan.
The scene at the beginning of the book symbolizes what Jill calls “the slow erosion of my husband,” and the novel provides the details of the erosion. Through flashbacks and many shifts in perspective, the background history of the Olmsteads emerges – Cade, the baby of the family; his downtrodden mother; abusive father; hard-edged sister, and his older brother Elias, just discharged from the Army after a tour in Afganistan. Jill, however, is willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, especially Cade, and sees this time in New Hampshire as just a temporary departure from normal life. Jill, the daughter of a single mother who grew up on the themes of recovery and the Big Book of AA, still grieving over her mother’s recent death, gradually realizes her complete and utter dependence on a gun-toting family of extremists that takes New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto literally and ignores their wide array of mental health issues, to avoid government interference in their lives.
I’m not sure of the meaning of the cover photo of a little girl hugging a U.S. flag, as there is no little girl in the story and the military plays a background role only in Elias’ story. Heaven Should Fall‘s strong plot and troubled characters in a desperate situation should appeal to readers of Jodi Picoult’s novels, as suggested in a Library Journal review quoted on the back cover, as will the way the story builds to a climax that explains the scene at the beginning. Although readers may wish some of her decisions were different, Jill remains a sympathetic character throughout, and getting into the head of Cade’s mother helps us feel sympathetic towards her, too.
To read the first chapter of Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman in full, check out the complete list of tour stops.
Scavenger Hunt Excerpt – October 8 (#11)
One soldier after another worked his jaw around a piece of gum, and I thought about what Cade had said on the highway.
At last Cade’s searching gaze snapped into recognition, and he uncoiled his arms from their crossed position against his chest. “Hey, dude,” he said, clasping Elias’s extended hand, then pulling him into a hug unimpeded by the flat ribbon of the walkway marker wedged between them. “I missed you, man.”
Heaven Should Fall
September 25, 2012
$15.95, U.S./$18.95, CAN.
Disclaimer: I received a free advance reading copy of Heaven Should Fall from the publisher in exchange for participation in the blog tour and a fair and honest review.