This is the second book published by Amy Jo Burns. The opposite of the path many writers take, her first book was a memoir she wrote in her early thirties entitled, Cinderland, about her life as a chlld in Western Pennsylvania and her experience of telling the truth about a sexual assault that many thought was a lie. She responded to an interviewer who asked about her main inspiration for writing this book, set in West Virginia: "The characters in Shiner—especially the women who are held responsible for the sins of the men in their lives—helped remind me of life’s quiet rhythms, and how important it is that they also get a chance to shine in the legends we tell." The character Flynn is the moonshiner who gives this novel it's title, Shiner, but three other characters play a more central role. The sinful man central to this story is a preacher named Brier, who has isolated his family on top of a mountain far from the closest mining town. The women are Ivy and Ruby, best friends, and Ruby's fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren. Ivy falls into a fire, and Brier appears to heal her. It all takes place in one summer, and it does include snake-handing as well as moonshine. “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)“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. "Amy Jo Burns writes masterful sentences changed 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.
New York: Riverhead Books, 2020. 272 pages. Hardback in dust jacket. $27.00. .