A Burning in Homeland is
...a wonderfully written, crazily romantic story of intense love and devastating betrayal
...a stunning debut of a remarkably gifted young novelist
...a Southern novel that captures the beauty, madness and mystery of both place and time.
In what can only be described as a tour-de-force of passionate atmospheric storytelling, first-time novelist Richard Yancey had created a finely nuanced narrative that resounds with raw, emotional truths -- a story about the ominous return to a small town in central Florida of a man once sentenced to prison for defending the honor of the woman he loved, about the woman and her husband who both betrayed him, and about a guileless young boy who gets caught up in their web of love, lies, and deceit.
The story of the love between Halley Martin and Mavis Howell is seldom talked about in the tiny town of Homeland, Florida, but in the twenty years since Halley was sent to prison for murdering a rival suitor -- the only murder ever in this small, pious town -- the story has become legend. To seven-year-old Shiny Parker it has become a mystery, something his parents whisper about. He knows that somehow the pretty wife of the local minister is involved, but it is all too confusing for him to sort out.
When the church's parsonage burns, almost killing the minister, only days before the legendary Halley Martin is due to be released from prison, Shiny senses a connection between the events -- as do most residents of the town. But if Haley was still in prison when the house burned, who set the fire...and why?
Passionate love, the betrayal of friendship, hidden letters, a suspicious fire, mystery and revenge -- all are elements of this complex and deeply involving Southern gothic tale.
Alternating among a trio of first person narrators -- Shiny, Mavis, and Halley -- Richard Yancey has created a lush, epic Southern landscape bursting with larger than life characters and rich atmospherics. A Burning in Homeland is both starkly haunting and exquisitely romantic and a masterpiece of dazzling storytelling you will not soon forget.
When a parsonage goes up in flames in 1960, memories of a 20-year-old murder are stirred up in the small town of Homeland, Fla. Yancey's powerful if somewhat glum Southern gothic debut is a Capote/McCullers/Foote cocktail with a twist. Three voices tell Yancey's story. Robert Lee "Shiny" Parker, wise beyond his seven years, provides much-needed humor as he describes the invasion of his home by Mavis and Sharon Rose, the wife and daughter of the town's Baptist preacher, who has been seriously burned in the conflagration. "Sharon-Rose.... She was three years older than me so I didn't know her very well, until that summer she moved in with us, because God burned her house to the ground and me and her got engaged through no fault of my own." Meanwhile, 38-year-old Halley Martin, just released from prison, thinks back on the day 20 years ago when he murdered his rival for the affections of Mavis Howell, the daughter of an orange-grove plantation owner. "It's what we remember, not what we do, that truly damns us," he says. In prison, he was befriended by a visiting Baptist preacher, Ned Jeffries, who saves Halley's life, then steals the woman he loves. Mavis's letters to Halley in prison offer a third perspective on the story, explaining how she came to marry Jeffries while still loving Halley. Yancey is an honest, uningratiating writer, whose characters are grittily convincing, though rarely charming. Troubled, strident Sharon Rose, in particular, is a striking creation, and Halley is a marvelously flawed protagonist. Moving along at a seductive pace to a religiously charged finale, the novel maintains its curious, uncompromising tone to the very end.