July Book of the Month: The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

Today, we begin a new Book of the Month here at Novel Novice — The Revenant by Sonia Gensler. But unlike our previous Book of the Month titles, this one has a unique story.

We choose our Book of the Month titles for a variety of reasons. We often look for books that have plenty of content for us to work with, since we’ll be putting together so many blog posts related to the book. But we also seek out authors and publishers who are just as eager to work with us as we are with them — because, frankly, we couldn’t accomplish such a massive undertaking without their help and support. So we’re not just picking these books willy-nilly.

In some cases, books (be it for review, a weekly feature, or Book of the Month) are recommended to us by other authors we’ve worked with or befriended. That is the case with The Revenant, though when I got that first email about this book several months ago, I had no idea what would happen in the coming months.

It was October 2010, and I’d been working with Lisa Madigan on our October Book of the Month feature on her book The Mermaid’s Mirror. Lisa always had excellent taste in books, and had already steered me towards some great titles. So when she suggested I consider blogging about a book coming out in 2011 called The Revenant, I immediately took her advice. I checked out Sonia’s website, saw how much potential this book had, and shot off an email suggesting her book for a month-long feature the summer it was released. Sonia and I exchanged contact info, she put me on her publisher’s mailing list for an ARC, and we promised to be in touch closer to the book’s June 14th release date. I followed up with Lisa, thanking her for the recommendation.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to talk to Lisa about how much I loved The Revenant. As many of you know, Lisa passed away earlier this year from pancreatic cancer. I’m not writing about it here to try and bring you down, but because it’s a bittersweet moment to finally be featuring The Revenant — all these months after Lisa first told me about it. I’m SO thrilled that her influence is still shaping the books I read and share with you here at Novel Novice, but I’m sad Lisa’s not here to share it with us. Still, in a small way, I feel like Lisa’s influence is here now — and when you’re done checking out The Revenant, I hope you’ll also go read both of Lisa’s amazing novels: Flash Burnout and The Mermaid’s Mirror. Then you, too, can get a glimpse of just how amazing Lisa was.

In the meantime, here is our July desktop wallpaper calendar featuring The Revenant (click to view full-size, then right-click to save), and the official synopsis:

When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn’t belong in anymore, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary.

Nothing prepares her for what she finds there. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie’s room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.

Willie doesn’t believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn’t sure anymore. She’s also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys’ school who has taken an interest in her—his past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even she has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something. . . .

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