I am excited to present my first installment in an ongoing series of independently published literary novel reviews! Enjoy!
Multiple Exposure (Thorncraft Publishing, 2012)—Shana Thornton’s debut novel—is the deeply nuanced story and timely examination of the ways in which we process and integrate violence and its ensuing fear in our contemporary culture.
Ellen Masters’ past is overlaid with her present. Her consciousness confounded further by images of the indigenous tribes who once populated the Southern town of her childhood. Hers is a rich past—a Century Farm family of plum brandy distillers, a childhood marked by loss and abandonment, a personal history steeped in the woods near her home, the parallels to her own life she draws with those of the tribes—and what unfolds is an exploration of family history which sustains, defines and roots us. Ellen is a University professor and her husband, David, enlisted in the Army, is deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. His frequent deployments prove to make connection between he and Ellen difficult, and Ellen spirals through fear and paranoia in their separation. Ellen hikes and runs the lengths of her extensive property and the land which contains Cumberland Cave, an ancient piece of stone near the property Ellen inherited from her grandmother—her constant running and hiking a seeking of answers of the self and the world that contains her. When three University students are murdered at the Cave, Ellen is certain that she is somehow connected, her fears blossoming to greater and greater proportions. She delves deeply into her past and her own mind as well as the ideas of violence, all the while attempting to connect with David via email, sketchy cell phone calls and interactions on Skype.
Ellen’s story culminates in a poignant ending, rife with beauty and metaphor.
In a singularly distinctive voice, Thornton raises questions that carry weight, all the while immersing the reader in lush language, emotion and visceral imagery. Through the intertwined narratives—Ellen's past and family, her marriage, murder and war—Multiple Exposure at its center examines violence. It is an exploration of war—our implication, our connection, our responsibility, the voyeurism provided by media and the consequential numbness of our culture to brutality and exploitation—and our response to it, the murders at home juxtaposed highlighting the reach and scope and seeming impossibility of escaping from violence.
Thornton expresses challenging points of view and gives shape to difficult images—that which we imagine in order to survive, as our worst fears take shape, and the ways by which we survive and heal.
A clip of Shana Thorton reading from Multiple Exposure. Beautiful prose!