The Blood of Heaven
by Kent Wascom Published by Grove Press
on 2013-06-04 Source: Publisher Pages:
432 Buy from IndieBound
Is it becoming obvious that I love sweeping historical novels? I can’t help myself, just seeing the words epic or century in a blurb and I’m done for. Thankfully, there seems to be a number of big, dramatic tales headed for publication this year, and The Blood of Heaven is certainly setting the stage.
“Brothers and sisters, we will never be the shining city on the hill, but with the grace of God we can become the rot-glowing hand that will pull the bastards down.”
Kent Wascom’s debut novel traces the life of Angel Woolsack, who leaves his preacher father and the plains of Missouri to create a new life with his adopted brother, Samuel Kemper, in the early 1800’s. The pair navigates their way through the South, loosening their morals and discovering breaking points on their journey toward settlement in West Florida. Through love, death, murder and marriage, Angel and his companions map out the harsh history behind the creation of the United States.
Early in The Blood of Heaven, many of the characters’ actions are dictated by a desire to spread or purify their religion, freeing them of guilt regardless of their immorality. Yet, as readers watch Angel’s choices lead him further from his starting point, he finds he must warp his justifications in order to deal with the crimes he has committed. This becomes one of the novel’s overarching themes, one that can easily be seen paralleled in today’s society some 200 years later.
“…if a man can’t blaspheme when he is on the raw edge of revelation, then when? If you can hear the thunder of the holy heartbeat, where the conscience rests that burns holes in the sky and calls up pits of spiders to swallow the weak, do what comes natural and your actions will be smiled upon.”
Though the last of the novel’s four books lacks the pace of the rest, Wascom delivers an incredibly powerful debut. At just 26 years-old, he writes with the voice of a master, creating effortless phrases that read like they took lifetimes to compose. Those stunning sentences combined with bold violence, well researched history and questionable morality make The Blood of Heaven worthy of all its praise. One of my first novelist highlights, I really hope to see this submitted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.