Ren Taylor’s career took a ride on the fast track when she posits that a single artist created a number of 12th century ceramic bowls found current day southern New Mexico. When Silas Cooper discovers bowls with similar markings on his own archaeological dig, he invites Ren to join his team in having a look around. Ren can’t explain how she connects and gets so much information about the bowls and the culture surrounding them, because to do so would be to admit that for years she has been seeing not only the ghost of her dead brother, but also those at the dig sites that she works. As Silas and Ren work together and develop an intimate relationship, Ren connects in a way that she has ever allowed or experienced before. But what messages do the have for her about losing Silas?
There are many reasons to enjoy Gin Phillips’s Come In And Cover Me. The prose is lovely and so wonderfully descriptive that you can see everything dancing off the page and before your eyes. What’s going on with Ren raises some interesting questions – like, why she sees ghosts, are they are of her own creation, and in what ways does grief inform our memories and experience? The reader has to sort these issues out alone to see what they finally make of Ren’s experiences.
The huge difficulty of this novel was Ren’s extreme distance; failing to warm to her made the story slower than it really was, and pretty hard for me to read. Reactions to tragedy and grief may vary, but Ren’s choices, while finely detailed and real, bothered me. That being said I do think that Phillip’s accomplished what she set out to do in her rendering of this character and her growth and resolutions. Come In And Cover Me is well told, the archaeological bits were well-researched and engaging, and the characters are fully and carefully drawn. Phillip’s skill has me interested to see what else she comes up with, though I failed to connect with her current offering.