Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance (Hardcover)

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Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance By Paulette Jiles Cover Image

Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss, and Vengeance (Hardcover)


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Staff Reviews

This is Jiles's third consecutive novel set from the end of the US Civil War to Reconstruction (Simon the Fiddler and News of the World). Though not a series, this is an era the author has researched and mastered.
John Chenneville, a Union soldier, has made his way back to the family farm in Missouri, after a long recovery from an almost-fatal head injury suffered toward the end of the Civil War. As he continues to heal, he learns that his sister, her husband, and their infant child have been brutally killed in his absence. He vows to regain his strength and avenge their deaths. Information he gathers points to a man named AJ Dodd as the murderer – a heinous poser with many aliases and vocations, who is headed for Texas. First, John takes care of the disposition of his farm and land, knowing he might never return. Then, under increasingly arduous conditions, John relentlessly tracks AJ Dodd and the continuing path of destruction the murderer leaves in his wake. Along the way, he takes refuge from unpassable weather with a young telegraphist. They form a bond over books and telegraphy, a skill John acquired during his service. And he finally opens his heart to the incomparable Miss Victoria Reavis, another telegraphist, farther along in his journey. Will John find happiness; spend his remaining life in prison after finding and killing Dodd; or will he die trying?
Paulette Jiles weaves rich, finely-honed geographic details into this story seamlessly, with the patois and authenticity of her characters. Through the author’s writing, you feel the wind, frostbite, and sunburn; see the beauty and destruction of the land; and experience the tension leading up to the conclusion of John Chenneville’s quest.

— From Karen McCue

Consumed with grief, driven by vengeance, a man undertakes an unrelenting odyssey across the lawless post–Civil War frontier seeking redemption in this fearless novel from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of News of the World

Union soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John’s beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered.

Their killer goes by many names. He fought for the North in the late unpleasantness, and wore a badge in the name of the law. But the man John knows as A. J. Dodd is little more than a rabid animal, slaughtering without reason or remorse, needing to be put down.

Traveling through the unforgiving landscape of a shattered nation in the midst of Reconstruction, John braves winter storms and confronts desperate people in pursuit of his quarry. Untethered, single-minded in purpose, he will not be deterred. Not by the U.S. Marshal who threatens to arrest him for murder should he succeed. And not by Victoria Reavis, the telegraphist aiding him in his death-driven quest, yet hoping he’ll choose to embrace a life with her instead.

And as he trails Dodd deep into Texas, John accepts that this final reckoning between them may cost him more than all he’s already lost… 

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, Simon the Fiddler, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

“Master storyteller Jiles elegantly ropes in the reader’s heart.” — NPR

"Jiles creates an unforgiving Western landscape filled with memorable, morally ambiguous characters who are self-reliant in the face of adversity." — Washington Post

“There can be no quibbling with the dramatic tension in her rendering of the chaotic, wretchedly despoiled landscape Chenneville encounters.” — New York Times

“A gritty, atmospheric revenge story, set in a nation shattered by the Civil War . . . . [John Chenneville] becomes, in Jiles’ skilled hands, a shrewd and fearless bear of a (unbathed) man seeking justice.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A beautifully written novel illuminating society across a wide swath of the lower United States. . . . The writing is poetic and descriptive, leavened with a hint of romance.”  — Library Journal (starred review)

“In her richly lyrical prose, acclaimed author Jiles (Simon the Fiddler, 2020) turns to the waning weeks and months of the Civil War, a period when the scales of justice felt heavily tipped toward the war's administrators and beneficiaries. Jiles uses John's lawless quest to interrogate the inequalities in the justice system—inequalities that still echo loudly today.”  — Booklist (starred review)

“Jiles (News of the World) captivates with another reliably rugged western odyssey…As usual, Jiles impresses with vital characterizations, well-honed dialogue, and a granular depiction of the Old West…This tale has true grit.” — Publishers Weekly

News of the World is . . . [an] exquisite book about the joys of freedom; the discovery of unexpected, proprietary love between two people who have never experienced anything like it; pure adventure in the wilds of an untamed Texas; and the reconciling of vastly different cultures. . . . That’s a lot to pack into a short, vigorous volume, but Ms. Jiles is capable of saying a lot in few words.” — New York Times

“Paulette Jiles’ spare Western packs a powerful punch. And, boy, can Jiles write. . . News of the World is surprisingly tender, but never soft. It’s lovely.” — USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)

“[A] sleek and entertaining novel . . . [W]hat stands out amid the gun smoke and the period detail is the moving friendship between a girl with no place to fit in and an old man who has outlived his usefulness. Add them to the list of the Wild West’s great odd couples.” — Wall Street Journal on News of the World

“The reader is treated to a kind of alchemy on the page when character, setting and song converge at all the right notes, generating an authentic humanity that is worth remembering and celebrating.”  — New York Times on Simon the Fiddler

“Jiles’ sparse but lyrical writing is a joy to read. . . . A beautifully written book and a worthy follow-up to News of the World.” — Associated Press on Simon the Fiddler

“Imbued with the dust, grit, and grime of Galveston at the close of the Civil War, Simon the Fiddler immerses readers in the challenges of Reconstruction. Jiles brings her singular voice to the young couple's travails, her written word as lyrical and musical as Simon's bow raking over his strings. Loyal Jiles readers and fans of Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge will adore the author's latest masterpiece."  — Booklist (starred review) on Simon the Fiddler