Reviews

CementvilleLR

“The arrival of dead soldiers from Vietnam in 1969 upturns and rewires the lives in a small Kentucky town. As Livers’ debut novel opens, the reputation of Cementville (pop. 1,003) has shifted from its namesake cement factory to something much more visceral: The arrival of the bodies of seven National Guardsmen who were killed in a firefight. The tragedy has sent the town into public displays of mourning, though as Livers shifts the story’s perspective among a host of residents, more complicated emotions emerge. . . . Livers explores the ways that perception and reality often fail to overlap in small-town life, and there are moments where the novel sings . . . An earnest and sober portrait of the home front.”   —Kirkus Reviews

“It’s 1969, and seven coffins and one injured former high school quarterback are returning to Cementville, Kentucky, from Vietnam, triggering widening ripples of deep consequence among the town’s stalwart, old-fashioned populace. … readers plunged into Livers’s gently paced evocation of a nearly forgotten time and place.”  —Elle magazine, Elle’s Lettres 2014 Readers’ Prize

“As the residents of a southern town brace for the burial of seven soldiers killed in Vietnam, a string of violent murders hits their streets, launching the community into emotional chaos. Some of my family members fought in Vietnam, so I know the heartbreaking side effects war can inflict on its survivors and their loved ones. Cementville could be any American town in 1969. The novel is a moving representation of the nation’s psychological state in that time of turmoil.” —Real Simple magazine

“Beautifully written and sensitively executed, it weaves the Vietnam era deftly into family stories and touches on the civil rights issues that still arouse strong feelings in Cementville’s population. . . . [I]t should gratify those who enjoy good prose and a complex interweaving of past and present. A promising debut.” —Historical Novel Society

“So much is lost in war, but we rarely allow ourselves to sit with that discomfort. Livers seems capable not only of guiding her reader though painful realizations, but also offering much needed doses of hope, humor, and insight along the way. Cementville is a war novel, a Vietnam novel, a southern novel, but it is also a profoundly contemporary novel because it looks closely at the tension between community and individuality, which is a great American struggle that only seems to get harder with time. By taking her reader back to the Vietnam era, Livers manages to push us past the politics of the present and remind us that when a nation is at war, patience, understanding, and love are the most useful tools we have.  —Windy City Reviews

With talk of military homecomings in the air, it’s a relevant moment for the arrival of “Cementville,” an ambitious contemplation of grief, violence and the aftermath of war in a tiny Southern town. . . . . With nods to not only Dickens but Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shirley Jackson too, Livers asserts the novel’s far-reaching intentions via her deployment of ornate, high-powered language. This thought-provoking debut wears its literary aspirations like a velvet funeral gown, calling attention to the grim legacies of combat and the changing realities of small-town U.S.A. As another bloody American entanglement staggers to a close, “Cementville” makes it clear that the consequences of warfare reverberate much further than on battlefields, for civilians as well as soldiers.  —Atlanta Journal Constitution

Cementville is the story of a small Kentucky town in 1969, facing the return of the bodies of a group of local young men killed together in a firefight in Vietnam. The young men come from all kinds of families: the prominent Slidell family, the ne’er-do-well Ferguson clan, the solid Goins family. As scattered members of the town come home to pay their respects, their collective grief cracks open the walls of their reserve, allowing them to know each other as never before. . . . What is central and valuable is the depiction of a specific and near-forgotten way of life. Through her strongly drawn characters, Livers depicts a community drawing on its traditional strengths—kindness, respect, and practicality—to support each other through the very new challenges presented by war, trauma, and suspicion. This novel will be enjoyed by fans of Marilynne Robinson and of lyrical novels that depict the awesome inner struggles and resources of seemingly everyday people.”    —Booklist

“In Livers’s debut, it’s 1969, and seven young men from the most well-respected families of Cementville, Ky., are coming home from Vietnam in body bags. They had joined the National Guard in the hopes of avoiding real conflict, but war found them anyway. Also returning home is still-breathing Lt. Harlan O’Brien, the town’s former football star. Long, lyrical chapters explore the wounds wrought on those left bereft, but Livers ups the ante by putting a killer on the loose in the small town. And with townsfolk already on edge, mutual respect and tradition are replaced by fear and suspicion. Livers uses each chapter to explore a different facet of war and its aftermath. . . . The novel comes off as an atmospheric piece, a portrait of a traditional town on the brink of much change, whether welcomed or not.” —Publishers Weekly

“It is rare to find an entire population rendered with the insight, clarity and tenderness that Livers brings to the people of Cementville in her richly intertwined narrative. Like a sculptor working in stone, she carves life-like characters from words and then delivers them a double whammy.” —Books in Brief