Come in and Cover Me
When Ren was twelve years old, she lost her older brother to a car accident. For twenty-five years he’s been a presence in her life, appearing with a song or a reflection in the moonlight. Her connection to the ghosts around her has made her especially sensitive as an archaeologist, understanding the bare outline of our ancestors, recreating lives and stories, and breathing life into those who occupied this world long before us. On the cusp of the most important find of her career, it is the ghosts who are guiding her way. But what they have to tell Ren about herself, and her developing relationship with the first man to really know her since her brother’s death, is unexpected—a discovery about the relationship between the past and the future, and the importance of living in the moment.
“Phillips’s writing is . . . brimming with imagery. . . . Her greatest talent is her ability to create the world of the story. Come In and Cover Me moves us into the earth. The dusty landscape serves as both setting and metaphor, a beautiful but dangerous place where a sudden loss of footing can prove fatal.”—Brunonia Barry, The Washington Post
“With a sure hand . . . Phillips, weaves this strand of the supernatural through a compelling modern story of love and loss.”—San Francisco Chronicle“As graceful and emotionally true as Phillips’ debut—and, in its thoroughly researched reimagining of the American Southwest’s prehistoric Mimbres culture and its leap into supernatural territory without once losing its credibility or riveting story line, surpasses it. . . . Amid a sensually sketched setting of rock formations, mesquite and juniper, narrow canyons, and night skies, Ren and Silas work side by side and try to bridge the growing distance between them. As the natural and supernatural worlds coalesce, both recent and ancient history become more insistently present, yielding an original and strikingly beautiful ending.” Kate Christensen, Elle “Long haunted by her dead brother, archaeologist Ren Taylor is being led to the find of her career by a ghostly woman who lived at the site of an ancient desert dig. Part love story, part field guide, this beguiling novel charts the excavation and restoration of a damaged soul.”—Parade
The Soundtrack of Memory
Come In and Cover Me revolves around a woman who needs to deal with the ghosts of her past. Her brother, long dead, is still very much a presence in her life, and her memories of him are wrapped up in his music—Dylan, Springsteen, The Sex Pistols.
My childhood soundtracks were not so sophisticated, but I do feel the pull of them. There’s something about music that sharpens memory, that makes it easier to grab and hold onto. When my parents divorced, my father took one record with him: the Oak Ridge Boys. On my weekends with him, we listened to it constantly. I liked it just as much when we turned off the record, and Dad sang by himself. My father has a fantastic voice, and he could really blow the roof off the place when he hit the “Oom Poppa Oom Poppa Mow Mow” part of “Elvira.” Thirty years later, I hear a few chords of the Oak Ridge Boys, and I can taste the cans of fruit cocktail and Vienna sausage sandwiches we always ate—he wasn’t much of a cook. I can feel the rough upholstery under my thighs as I perched on the arm of his red recliner. I can feel the joy of seeing him after two weeks apart. The sounds of the past seem to make the smells and textures—and hopes—all come rushing back, too.
When I was six, my mother and great-aunt convinced me to let them give me a permanent because they said it would make me look like Dolly Parton, my idol. Just for the record, they were big fat liars. Frizzy-headed and heartbroken, I stumbled around singing “9 to 5” for days. It gave me some relief, and it’s still a song that comforts me immensely. Then there were my grandmother’s earnest lullabies. She didn’t know many songs, so I fell asleep almost exclusively to “Home on the Range” and “You Are My Sunshine.” The line “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” would make me bawl because it made me think that my grandmother might die. Sometimes I would run from the bed and hide under the dining room table for an hour or so, inconsolable. Eventually she started leaving out that line, but when I hear it today, it still makes me want to crawl under something.
This book is about memory and family and love and ghosts, and there’s a reason a ghost sometimes announces itself with a snatch of song or a wordless hum. A familiar melody or voice can bring back the past—or just our past selves—with all the attached love and longing and regret. I think music can summon ghosts for us all.
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