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The Sheltering

A Novel

Mark Powell

Publication Year: 2014

“'You set yourself up as judge, jury, and executioner,’ Pamela had said, but that was wrong: you set yourself up as angel, and await the word of God.” Luther Redding lost his job, and almost lost his wife, Pamela, and teenaged daughters Katie and Lucy, when the real estate bubble burst in Florida. Now he pilots a Reaper drone over the mountains of Afghanistan from a command center in the bowels of Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, studying a target’s pattern of life and awaiting the command to end that life. Meanwhile Bobby Rosen has returned home from his tours in Iraq to a broken marriage and an estranged son, his promising military career cut short in a moment of terrible violence in a Sadr City marketplace. As the tales of Luther and Bobby unfold, Mark Powell masterfully engages with the vexing, bifurcated lives of combatants in the global war on terror, those who are simultaneously here and there and thus never fully freed from the life-and-death chaos of the battlefield. As Bobby sets off on a drug-fueled road trip with his brother Donny, newly released from prison and consumed by his own inescapable impulses, a sudden death in the Redding household sends Luther’s daughter Katie spiraling into grief and self-destruction. Soon the lives of the Reddings and the Rosens intersect as the collateral damage from the war on terror sends these families into a rapid descent of violence and moral ambiguity that seems hauntingly familiar to Bobby while placing Katie in a position much like her father's—more removed witness than active participant in the bloody war unfolding in front of her. Overarching questions of faith and redemption clash with the rough-hewn realities of terror and loss, all to explosive ends in Powell’s dark vision of modern Americana. Novelist Ron Rash has deemed Powell “the best Appalachian novelist of his generation.” In this, his fourth novel, Powell broadens the southern backdrop of his earlier work into a sprawling thriller taking readers from the Middle East to Charleston, southern Georgia, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, and into the storied American West. In its themes, perspectives, and pacing, The Sheltering recalls the work of Robert Stone, Jim Harrison, and Ben Fountain while further establishing Powell as a unique voice capable of interrogating unfathomable truths with a beauty and cohesion of language that challenges our assumptions of the human spirit.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Story River Books


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Quotes

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pp. vii-viii

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Pat Conroy

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pp. ix-xii

The Sheltering is at once haunting and an act of pure grace. What you notice first when you come to Mark Powell’s fourth novel is his remarkable gift for language, the bleeding edges around his dialogue, the starch and vigor of his sense of place, the sharp delineation of his characters, and a stylishness all his own. He is that...

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pp. 1-46

He listened as the Reaper circled nine thousand feet above the valley floor, green eye fixed on what appeared first as a rectangle of white light but looking closer—and Luther Redding had been looking closer for three days now—revealed itself as a squat aluminum-sided building, a worn Chevy Bronco...

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pp. 47-68

The child died in a sunlit market. The child died in a Vegas ring. Still, the years came and went. Wars and rumors of war. A decade of erosion that ended with morning. Maybe half past four and a taste in Bobby’s mouth like dryer lint. He heard the dogs outside, nails scratching the porchboards, and///

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pp. 69-114

Around the time Alan was trudging through “Judgment Swamp” and embracing the thisness of his life, Lucy Redding’s father caught her masturbating. Actually, not caught. Walked in on her. In truth, she doubted he’d seen a thing. He was like that these days. Zombie-dad, Lucy’s sister Katie called him...

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pp. 115-138

The dogs were all right. The beagles had dragged a small rabbit onto the porch and now the bones were clean and broken. A tiny thing with giant feet. Gray pelt. The shriveled heart intact, purple and dangling. Bobby fed them and shooed them into the yard and went inside and showered. He couldn’t remember...

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pp. 139-166

Katie walked first on the sidewalk and, when she met Pennsylvania, down the center of the road. Without realizing it, or not exactly realizing it, she was retracing the path they’d walked twice that day, back and forth to the church. It was night now and rain fell softly through the trees except it wasn’t rain...

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pp. 167-198

It started raining just south of Gainesville and it was the lashing that woke Bobby from a dream of his parents. He was maybe five and they were at the city park on a Sunday afternoon in early fall. Halfway up the sliding board ladder when a swarm of yellow jackets lifted out of the grass and...

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pp. 199-224

Tomorrow was the funeral but now , today—this day that the Lord hath made—they were all in the kitchen. In the kitchen as if we never left, Lucy thought, or left only so that we might reassemble and take leave, for the truth was that for two days they had done nothing but come and go, entering seemingly...

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pp. 225-264

They took I-10 through Houston and on toward San Antonio, nobody talking. The child was dead and for five hundred miles Bobby squinted down the white line and thought of the awful clatter, the code team, the pounding on his frail chest. He’d called Nancy that morning from New Orleans and...

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pp. 265-296

Lucy’s dreams felt more like possibilities than lives she had lived. It swallowed the funeral and everything that followed: the realness of her inner life outstripping reality, as if sleep—and she slept so well now, God, how deeply she could sink—had woken some long dormant section of her brain. She...

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pp. 297-304

Not a cop. A goddamn abusive rent-a-cop, Donny told Bobby. A rabble-rousing woman-abusing narc son of a bitch. The real cop came that afternoon, a deputy that pulled beneath the island at a gas station in southern Utah. The whole thing unfolded in a series of regrettable missteps: their noticing him...

About the Author

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p. 305

E-ISBN-13: 9781611174359
E-ISBN-10: 161117435X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611174342

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Story River Books
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 883078139
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Sheltering

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Families of military personnel -- Fiction.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009 -- Moral and ethical aspects -- Fiction.
  • Loss (Psychology) -- Fiction.
  • Psychological fiction.
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