Shiner: A Novel (Paperback)

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“Amy Jo Burns writes a version of Appalachia that is one step removed from magic – all strychnine and moonshine and powerful wonder.”NPR 

“[A] wrenching testament, told in language as incandescent as smoldering coal. . . This is not a despairing book, but a hopeful one, of Appalachian women taking back their life stories.” —New York Times Book Review

On a lush mountaintop trapped in time, two women vow to protect each other at all costs-and one young girl must defy her father to survive.

An hour from the closest West Virginia mining town, fifteen-year-old Wren Bird lives in a cloistered mountain cabin with her parents. They have no car, no mailbox, and no visitors-except for her mother's lifelong best friend. Every Sunday, Wren's father delivers winding sermons in an abandoned gas station, where he takes up serpents and praises the Lord for his blighted white eye, proof of his divinity and key to the hold he has over the community, over Wren and her mother.

But over the course of one summer, a miracle performed by Wren's father quickly turns to tragedy. As the order of her world begins to shatter, Wren must uncover the truth of her father's mysterious legend and her mother's harrowing history and complex bond with her best friend. And with that newfound knowledge, Wren can imagine a different future for herself than she has been told to expect.

Rich with epic love and epic loss, and diving deep into a world that is often forgotten but still part of America, Shiner reveals the hidden story behind two generations' worth of Appalachian heartbreak and resolve. Amy Jo Burns brings us a smoldering, taut debut novel about modern female myth-making in a land of men-and one young girl who must ultimately open her eyes.

About the Author

Amy Jo Burns is the author of the memoir Cinderland. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Tin House, Ploughshares, Gay Magazine, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and The Paris Review Daily, and the anthology Not That Bad.

Praise For…

Praise for Shiner:

“Amy Jo Burns writes a version of Appalachia that is one step removed from magic – all strychnine and moonshine and powerful wonder.”NPR

“[A] fierce novel about Appalachia [where] the handlers are worse than the snakes...Shiner takes that setting and its tensions — faith versus reality, peril and those who self-righteously toy with it — and gives it a smart, stylish update."—The Los Angeles Times

"This emotional, lyrical novel about a 15-year-old named Wren and the surprising family secrets she uncovers is filled with hope, love, and strength."—Hello Giggles

"Beautifully written...crackles on the page."—The Skimm

“Burns describes moonshine country, the razorback mountains and ravines…in exquisite detail.”—Literary Hub

“In short, Burns masterfully builds a web of tension by drawing together the frayed threads of these characters’ lives: the coal mine’s destruction of the land, the opioid epidemic, the limited access to medicine, and the lack of freedom women experience.”—Ploughshares 

"If you don’t want to frame every single page after finishing this book, I’ll be shocked. It’s just that beautiful."—The Book Slut 

"Shiner is a powerful story about finding moments of light in the dark . . . Everyone in Shiner is keeping secrets, sharp and dizzying like moonshine." —Shelf Awareness

“[Burns'] evocative, poetic prose contrasts with the gritty world of snake handlers, moonshiners and opioids. At times reminiscent of books by Bonnie Jo Campbell and Ron Rash, Shiner is a powerful novel of generations linked by trauma, and of the hope and resilience needed to break a cycle of misery.” —BookPage

“A compelling fever-dream of a novel crafted out of moonshine and jagged miracles, Shiner is simply perfect. I loved every moment spent in the world Amy Jo Burns so thoroughly evokes; I already know I will return to it again and again. Do not miss this exceptional debut.”Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times-bestselling author of Never Have I Ever

"In spare yet lyrical prose, Amy Jo Burns brings to life a brutal landscape and its dangerous, alluring inhabitants. A haunting glimpse into a strange, mystical world with its own laws and customs, filled with fiercely independent people, this novel combines a memoir-like intimacy with the mythic power of a fable. Burns is a writer to be watched."Christina Baker Kline, #1 NYT bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

"Amy Jo Burns writes masterful sentences charged with all the beauty and rage and struggle of her characters. From the first paragraph to the last, Burns builds a vibrant and complex story of myths and miracles and moonshiners, as well as of the women who fight for their lives and their dignity as their future in a culture that all too often strangles all three. Shiner is a gorgeous novel."Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment 

"Shiner is a lush, gripping novel that explores love, grief, rage, and regeneration in a small Appalachian community. A story that feels both out of time and of its time, I won't forget the haunting mood, place, and characters that Burns brings to life."Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

"A story as dark and twisty as the Appalachian mountains where it's set, SHINER is riveting and full of wonder. Amy Jo Burns takes us deep into a land both beautiful and treacherous, where men handle snakes and make moonshine, where woman navigate a world that needs their labor but denies their happiness, and where girls like Wren Bird must decide who to be in a place that wants them to be nothing...SHINER is part love story, part mystery, part family drama, and deeply rooted in place and character. I loved it."Anton DiSclafani, bestselling author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls and The After Party

"With prose as potent as the moonshine it evokes, Amy Jo Burns shows how ferociously Appalachian history keeps it hold on the present. Beautiful and unsettling, Shiner pulled me in with its first startling scene and wouldn't let go."—Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew 

"Shiner is a book like a thunderstorm: weighty, emotional, romantic, and full of heat. It speaks to the energy and ambition of youth, in a voice unlike any we've seen before. Set in an Appalachian hillside that holds itself so remote it feels like a new civilization, Amy Jo Burns has introduced us to a world we will not soon forget. Her characters seek high truths and make hard choices, and they will linger in my mind for a long time to come."—Adrienne Celt, author of Invitation to a Bonfire

“This gorgeously written, plot-rich novel examines the complex lives of these five beautifully realized characters . . . Being set in Appalachia, it is no surprise that the novel is also about story and its gradual morphing into legend . . . This memorable first novel is exceptional in its power and imagination. It’s clearly a must-read.”— Booklist (Starred Review)
“Wren’s engaging, convincing voice leads the reader through her strange world. A teenage girl is the strong center of a fever-dream story of hidden pasts.” – Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Burns beautifully renders the isolated Appalachian landscape and the urgent desperation of her characters. Burns’s stunning prose is reason enough to keep an eye out for this promising writer’s next effort.” – Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9780525533658
ISBN-10: 0525533656
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Pages: 272
Language: English