Its history echoes with lynchings and shootings; mob violence and vigilante justice. But those are just whispers of a past lost to time. The summer of 2000 was different. Iggy in the Baptist church. Gasoline and a match. Twenty-five people dead. This, Harmony couldn’t forget.
... crystalline ... Bible knows his Bible Belt well, its family secrets and summer storms, the rigid social grids through which sex sluices like lake water. He’s drawn to the consequences of rebellion ... Bible beautifully captures the listless yaw of these outsiders as they search for meaning in a place where there’s little to do but drive 90 miles an hour along back roads, light joints and hook up ... Bible treads a fine line between ripe prose and a staccato cadence as he moves into the stories of others scarred by Iggy’s crime. The novel shifts, polyphonic, between timelines, jig-sawing its narrative, revealing depths in the shallowest of characters. Harmony, unsurprisingly, is more nuanced than a Hardee’s menu. There’s the occasional misfire — a diaper-clad 5-year-old, a mystical mood Cleo calls the Constant — but Bible is spot on as he illuminates the patterns of calamity, how they radiate outward ... By necessity Southern writers are uneasy moralists: They go along to get along, plotting their transgressions on the page. It’s fitting, then, that here Bible draws up his own Holy Writ, both recoiling from religious fervor and bowing to its power. At just over 100 pages, The Ancient Hours may seem a slender meditation on a life that jumps the guardrails of right-and-wrong, but it packs a wallop: The actual culprits may be the folks in the pulpit and pews, fanning away the poor in spirit with their 'thoughts and prayers and thoughts and prayers and thoughts and prayers.'
... manages to be both morally serious and emotionally generous—lyrical yet unsentimental ... The novel’s masterful second section takes the form of Iggy’s diary kept in the days before his execution ... It’s an intense acceptance of death as death (and not just a minor speedbump on the highway to heaven) that allows Bible’s characters to really love life and even time, to enjoy the absurd and painful ride it takes us on. We can’t transcend anything or stop the ride but we can meet time’s two faces with our own, fixed in a grateful grin, savoring it all even if in spite. And it’s the line-by-line poetry here that makes life seem worthwhile even in its futility; the act of recording it redeems it; Bible’s artistry replaces the false promise of religion and turns time and its punishments into a sort of pleasure.
What’s most remarkable about Bible’s approach is the trust he builds with his audience. The language is matter-of-fact and as stilted as a police report. Details of Iggy’s odd behavior as a child on a field trip and the actual fatal tragedy are delivered with a familiar distant tone ... It is through Iggy that Bible flexes an entirely different set of muscles. Iggy is complex—terrifying and immature, but profound in a way that seems intentionally in direct opposition to his tragic act. What is interesting about what Iggy has to say, is that he is more willing to talk about everything except his crime ... Bible is doing more than simply humanizing a criminal, he manages to make Iggy someone to empathize with, while understanding that he will not be forgiven ... Unfortunately, Cleo is not given enough time on the page to truly flourish and become more than the shadow of a character cast by Iggy and Farber. If nothing else, she may have been someone worth spending more time with to discover her desires including what drew her to Iggy ... The irony of the town name will not be lost on readers, but Bible’s unique voice makes the story of a tragedy in Harmony a successful journey toward healing and community.