The Ancient Hours (2020) by Michael Bible
Content warning: violence, domestic violence, drug addiction, sexual assault, discrimination, mass violence.
Summary: At 102 pages, The Ancient Hours is a short but powerful tale. Harmony, North Carolina experienced a tragedy. This tragedy haunts the town, the people who lived there then and experienced it in real time, and the subsequent generations afterwords.
It’s hard to provide a summary of this book without giving important aspects away. The novel peels back layers of what some characters call the “incident” or the “fire”. Without delving too deep, a crime was committed by a young man that killed dozens of people and forever altered the lives of so many. This book explains the thoughts and experiences of the man who committed the crime and the other victims and observers in the town.
It’s striking in its simplicity. Bible doesn’t waste space with over describing anything. The chapters are the free flowing thoughts of a group of characters who you instantly feel connected to. You feel anger towards some, pity and sympathy towards others. But there is a connection to all. At some point, you have experienced some of the same feelings that these characters describe.
“I read somewhere that the earth only has a couple of good years left. Soon it’ll be too hot to live. I assume I’ll end before the world does, my mind already fading toward oblivion. Some days are better than others but when things are bad I’m like a child that believes if they close their eyes the world will disappear. I’ll be dust soon and they’ll put a gravestone over me and in time that too will turn to dust and nothing will exist. Before that happens I wanted to put down in writing some things that I’ve loved and remind you that, for now, I persist.”
This novel is about persistence in a life that can be so harsh and cruel. It is about the failure of recognizing when people are in pain and need help but we fail and can’t get there in time to them. It forces you to confront the question of who is the real culprit? Who is at fault? It’s a beautiful novel. Written in such a striking way that I read it in one sitting.
Technical Summary: The Ancient Hours is divided into sections by character at a certain moment in time. Some speak in the 3rd person, others in 2nd person. While the cast of characters in the first chapter seems overwhelming, the novel sorts itself out quickly to provide you the key players. You won’t have trouble keeping them straight. Bible writes in a free flowing way, with the thoughts of the characters quickly forming throughout the page and absent quotation marks.
Author: Michale Bible is the author of Sophia and Empire of Light and his writings have appeared in many literary and news magazines.
Lover of the written word.