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“The Hum and the Shiver” by Alex Bledsoe

The Hum and the Shiver is the first of Alex Bledsoe’s series of novels about the Tufa, a group of people living in rural Tennessee whose mysterious origins give rise to rumor and superstition. Most of the Tufa are musically talented and can even work magic through their songs, so music is central to the story. As a music buff, this is one aspect of the novel that I really enjoyed.

Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen, and as the name suggests, they usually involve teenaged or young adult protagonists. The Hum and the Shiver is unique in that it gives this “discovering/choosing your place in the world” plotline to an adult. Main character Bronwyn Hyatt has just returned home after a tour of duty in Iraq. But even though she’s off the battlefield, she’s not out of trouble: death omens and a ghost make it clear that something nasty’s about to happen at home, too. In dealing with this, Bronwyn has to confront her own potential power and the (to her) restrictive elements of Tufa culture. Will she take her place among the Tufa’s leadership or return to the wider world?

Bledsoe presents a wide range of characters and gives the reader a good feel for their personalities. As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters. I also enjoyed puzzling out the mystery of who and what exactly the Tufa are. There is, however, one plot thread that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Partway through the book, there are some hints that certain events may not have unfolded the way we (or the characters) had been told. I had thought that unraveling this would be a major part of Bronwyn’s journey of self-discovery, but the thread is left unresolved.

Bledsoe has written several other novels about the Tufa, and I’m looking forward to reading them.

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