Dust Bath Revival is a book in which magic and history and Florida and science all get scrunched up and then smoothed out again into a shape neither the reader nor Hank can anticipate. It’s a dark and fascinating ride.
Henrietta Goodness — but for the love of little green apples call her Hank — is not your average heroine. But then, Dust Bath Revival is not your average book; sure, there are zombies but these aren’t your grandfather’s zombies and they aren’t necessarily the shambling dead, either.
Hank’s family has had members with the Sight, but Hank considers herself pretty normal. She’s grown up in a small town in a Florida where the US never really recovered from the dust bowl (for a number of reasons, the Reborn not the least of them). Sure, Hank’s a little short and a little round and a little interested in girls and a little bit feral, but that’s her normal and she’s content with it.
Until normal ends when a Revival Tent, complete with captive Reborn, comes to set a spell at the end of her Aunt Marty’s driveway. I think if you had to ask Hank when everything changed for better or worse, that’s the moment she’d point to.
Hank is a strongly fleshed-out character and I mean that in a number of senses; and senses are exactly what the book is about and a strong part of Kirby’s writing. One of the most important things about Hank is how embodied she is: particularly because of the first person narrative choice, we see what she sees and feel what she feels (physically and emotionally) but we also smell what she smells and hear what she hears… and we taste what she tastes. This sense of Hank, of em-body-ment, is critical both to the plot and to understanding Hank herself: and make no mistake, Hank herself is the focus here. Life set her feet on a path long before she realized there was anywhere to go, and an important part of the story is Hank learning to inhabit her life as well as her body.
In my experience, a lot of first-person POV novels are a little bit skittish about the less-pleasant
aspects of having flesh, of being embodied, but Hank feels them; this is another thing that really appeals to me about this book, a thing I think Kirby does really consistently throughout.
If you like books that are more than a half-bubble off plumb, if you like character-driven stories, if you like women finding their strength (even if they never really wanted to have to in the first place), if you like strong descriptions and stronger characters, then I really recommend you pick this one up.
Dust Bath Revival is the first book in a series and I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what Hank goes through next — and whether she ever learns NOT to give away her name so easily.
(note: this review was based on an advance copy of the novel. No compensation was received in return for this review.)