Set in Virginia during the Civil War and a century beyond, this novel explores the brutal legacy of violence and exploitation in American society as it examines the fates of the inhabitants of Beauvais Plantation and their descendants.
A Shout in the Ruins is intricately plotted, but not strained or gimmicky. Powers uses suspense ably; even when the reader realizes something awful is about to happen, it's difficult to stop turning the pages ... His use of language in A Shout in the Ruins — inspired, perhaps, by William Faulkner — is nothing short of brilliant, and he connects with his characters in a very real way; he explores their psyches with an uncommon sensitivity ... a singular triumph of a book.
...a lacerating and elegiac—if at times uneven—novel about the lasting effects of human bondage ... While the story grows confusing at times...the author’s writing possesses the same intimate, lyrical power as his haunting debut ... This is a fine, relevant novel from a notable author.
A Shout in the Ruins marches with a phalanx of great novels by Colson Whitehead, Toni Morrison, Edward P. Jones, Geraldine Brooks, E.L. Doctorow, Paulette Jiles, Charles Frazier, Jeffrey Lent, Michael Shaara, Gore Vidal, Stephen Crane and so many more. Any new writer who tries to join the ranks of these authors risks tripping over their feet or, worse, being set upon by the cliches that scamper after them like mangy dogs ... Powers brings to Virginia battle scenes the same searing immediacy he brought to his stories of carnage in The Yellow Birds. Once again, we come to feel the mix of agony and absurdity suffered by soldiers caught between the tectonic plates of history ... Powers has curdled the gothic tradition into a thick paste and spread it all over these pages. Rather than highlighting the perversity of slavery, his sententious prose strains to upstage it ... That’s particularly lamentable because Powers can be such a forceful writer when he resists the temptation to substitute grandiose gestures for his own hard-won wisdom.