The book’s cameo appearances by luminaries including President Abraham Lincoln (seen sitting up half the night wrapped in his old shawl) are moving and humane, contrasting with the harsh realities of the postwar period. They help to make Voices in the Dead House a stunning historical novel that brings history and literature together to share a singular perspective on the Civil War.
Lock’s latest novel reckons honestly with the legacies of two beloved writers ... Through the writers’ proximity to the effects of war, Lock depicts both as grappling with their feelings on racial equality and the legacy of slavery in the United States. Each has a distinctive approach, with Alcott wondering whether her commitment to abolition is enough and the famously contradictory Whitman’s transcendentalist reveries occasionally interrupted by his use of bluntly racist language. What makes the novel, particularly its Whitman-centric first half, so gripping is the way in which Lock depicts Whitman’s inner conflict—sometimes offensive, sometimes empathic, and sometimes wounded when he’s called out for his hypocrisy. The legacy of John Brown looms over both Alcott and Whitman, offering an example of someone who turned his ideals into unambiguous actions. Lock also maintains distinctive narrative styles for each of his two narrators ... A haunting novel that offers candid portraits of literary legends.
... immersive ... The landscape and environs of D.C. are memorably described, and Lock’s uncanny gift for reproducing the literary voices of his narrators goes beyond mere pastiche. This insightful double portrait brings both Whitman and Alcott into sharp focus.