Love and Lament is a monument to memory in its most powerful comingling of past and present. . . . Thompson . . . seems to be a natural heir to that great Southern writer, [Eudora Welty].
The Daily Rumpus
good storytelling and poetic writing
In Love and Lament, John Milliken Thompson binds together the best of the southern gothic tradition of William Faulkner and postmodern studies of human character and psyche like Joanna Greenberg’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.
John Milliken Thompson’s Love and Lament is a sweeping novel that gets everything right—the details, the panorama—but mainly it allows you to experience the life of another time, about a hundred years ago, in the soul and mind of a young woman whose passions and worries could be your own. In other words, Thompson makes that art form called the novel do the work it is meant to do—thoroughly and beautifully.
Clyde Edgerton, author of The Night Train and Walking Across Egypt
If you live in the rural South, it is a rare delight to find a writer like John Milliken Thompson, who captures familiar landscapes with grace and freshness and also takes you so vividly and surprisingly into the past. But it’s his beautifully drawn, completely original characters—Mary bet, Cicero, Siler, Flora—who made me fall in love with this book, and who will appeal to readers everywhere.
Belle Boggs, author of Mattaponi Queen
Mary Bet Hartsoe is tough, humble, independent, and enduring—a true North Carolina heroine. . . . Thompson perfectly captures the Carolina Piedmont’s sight, sounds, and flavors and convincingly depicts the turn-of-the-century South.
This novel is smart, beautifully written, honest, moving. I’m sure I cannot do it justice, but here is my attempt: Mary Bet Hartsoe, the protagonist of John Milliken Thompson’s new novel Love and Lament, is a character of such intelligent and curious sensibility I would follow her anywhere. And I did, and so will you as she takes us through some of the most turbulent times in our history while negotiating, with integrity and grace, the brittle demands of family and community.
Michael Parker, author of The Watery Part of the World
In his new novel, John Milliken Thompson visits again the fertile ground that he explored so satisfyingly in The Reservoir: the South at the turn of the prior century; the trials of families under strain from within and without; and the mysterious relationships between good and evil, God and man. Love and Lament is a powerful book that you’ll not soon forget.
Jon Clinch, author of Finn and The Thief of Auschwitz
Thompson’s Love and Lament offers us a young daughter of a still much-broken South, Mary Bet Hartsoe, as she witnesses the excesses of long-held jealousies, madness, religion and war, suffers the loss one after another of her family members, and yet marches on to become more than a woman of her time. Her story proves how the memory of loss is itself more fearsome than death, and yet even this fear has its limits once Mary Bet’s future beckons her. It’s a wonderful journey to behold.
Michelle Hoover, author of The Quickening
Love and Lament is an ambitious and exhilarating novel of the South at the turn of the last century. It is a book you’ll devour and savor. It will remind you why you started reading novels in the first place–to be enchanted, to be carried away from your world and dropped into a world more substantial and incandescent. John Milliken Thompson knows that every story is many stories, and he handles this complex tale of romance, family, race relations, and secrets with intelligence, grace, and tenderness. He has breathed life into Mary Bet Hartsoe and her benighted family, and they will breathe life into you.
John Dufresne, author of No Regrets and Coyote
A seamlessly told and scrupulously detailed history of the Hartsoe clan of Haw County, North Carolina, Love and Lament is that rare novel that brings the gritty, rural past to vivid life. I could very nearly smell the moonshine (the moonshiners too!). Pass a few hours with Mary Bet Hartsoe and family. You won’t regret it.
T. R. Pearson, author of Jerusalem Gap and A Short History of a Small Place
Thompson recreates the years after the Civil War with breathtaking clarity; it’s a rare joy to sink into a novel and believe in it so completely. I rooted for Mary Bet, and worried over each step she took within a family that seemed mysteriously fated for disaster.
Ann Napolitano, author of A Good Hard Look
An appealing historical novel that blends gothic and plainly romantic themes.
. . . both an exciting and lyrical read–I couldn’t put it down–and raises interesting questions about guilt and justice and family bonds.”
Belle Boggs, author of Mattaponi Queen
“an intoxicating tale of loyalty, betrayal and the enduring vagaries of the human heart”
“[an] astonishing novel”
Southern Literary Review
“Pitch-perfect to the post-Civil War era . . . This is an impressive first novel . . . hurtling toward greatness as an artful vehicle for grappling with temptations and the ambiguities of guilt. . . . The Reservoir gets stronger and richer as it rolls toward its startling climax.”
Jim Lynch, Washington Post
“In this compelling novel, this superb writer instructs and enchants.”
“[Thompson] does an outstanding job . . . This book will entertain readers with the quality of its writing, its true and intricate details of 1885 Richmond and its tale of . . . American tragedy.”
“Fans of courtroom drama, historical mysteries, and Southern gothic are sure to enjoy the tale which, even once the book is finished, will keep readers wondering about what happened at the reservoir.”
“Thompson masterfully illustrates how a seemingly clear-cut case can be filled with ambiguities.”
“Thompson . . . fleshes out the bones of an actual 1885 murder case in his solidly entertaining first novel.”
“In The Reservoir, John Thompson has created historical fiction of the very highest quality: vivid in its period details, gripping in its drama. It’s a novel of the South that tells the reader that there is more to the culture, more to the history, than the Civil War.”
Christopher Tilghman, author of Mason’s Retreat
“Southern Gothic gets a new twist in this true-life novel of crime and punishment in the heart of the fallen Confederacy. John Milliken Thompson stumbled upon a real-life case of long ago, re-created its world, and crafted a gripping tale. From the poignant puzzle brilliantly set out on the opening pages, The Reservoir plunges ever deeper into hidden depths of guilt and passion.”
Henry Wiencek, author of An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America
“A novel based on a true story that incorporates a bit of history and a touch of the Southern Gothic tradition … [Thompson] writes compellingly about the bond between Willie and Tommie, and his portrayal of the social mores of the post-Civil War South is believable … an engaging mystery novel.”
“This book defies categorization. What begins as a mystery steadily becomes a study of one foolish young man’s inevitable meeting with his destiny. Not much is likable about the main character as we come to know him in his youth; yet somehow, through the course of this cinematically portrayed novel, I was moved by him and cared about him. By the end, the reader is observing Everyman; the human condition just is–and redemption is possible.”
Laura DeVault, Over the Moon Bookstore, Crozet, VA
“It is the way people think and feel that creates the plot for this book … the characters are absolutely right from start to finish.”
Joanne Greenberg, author of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
“I couldn’t put this book down. The story, based on real events in 1883, is the murder of Lillie, who was eight months pregnant when she was found floating face up in Richmond, VA’s drinking water reservoir. Was it an accident, suicide or something more sinister? The author really captured the feeling of the time, but it was difficult to imagine that so many of the police proceedings and trial rulings are totally different from ours of today.”
Mary Kay Brunskill Cohen, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL
“Gorgeously suffused with the feel of 1880s Virginia, The Reservoir is not a whodunit but, even better, a did-he-do-it… John Milliken Thompson’s debut is an all-too-human and unforgettable puzzle, rendered in haunting shades of gray.”
Holly LeCraw, author of The Swimming Pool