Shortlisted for the L.D. and LaVerne Harrell Clark Fiction Prize
In this lyrical and suspenseful debut novel, a turn-of-the-century logging company decimates ten thousand acres of virgin forest in the West Virginia Alleghenies—and transforms a brotherhood of timber wolves into revolutionaries.
After fleeing his childhood farm in the wake of scandal, Cur Greathouse arrives at the Cheat River Paper & Pulp Company’s Blackpine camp, where an unlikely family of sawyers offers him new hope. But the work there is exacting and dangerous—with men’s worth measured in ledger columns. Whispers of a union strike pass from bunk to bunk. Against the rasp of the misery whip and the crash of felled hemlock and red spruce, Cur encounters a cast of characters who will challenge his loyalties: a minister grasping after his dwindling congregation, a Syrian peddler who longs to put down his pack and open a store, a slighted Slovenian wife turned activist, and a trio of reckless land barons. Cur must accept or betray the call to lead a rebellion—and finally reconcile a forbidden love.
Manuel Muñoz says of reading Matthew Neill Null’s image-rich prose, “The real pleasure—and certainly not the only one—is in the sentences, as complex, deliberately assured, and lethal as Flannery O’Connor’s.” A startling elegy that establishes its author as a tremendous new literary voice, Honey from the Lion evokes the ecological devastation and human tragedy behind the Gilded Age, and sings both the land and ordinary lives in all their extraordinary resilience.
“Lyrical, quietly powerful debut novel. . . . Against a backdrop of labor unrest and the growing destruction of the old-growth forest, Null weaves a morality play of many threads: who will betray whom and at what price? The writing is exact and assured, the story complex and rewarding. Fans of John Sayles’s film Matewan will find this a kindred work and just as good.” —Kirkus, One of Nine Books You Shouldn’t Overlook
“Null’s compelling debut novel delivers a stark assessment of the logging of virgin timber and the unfortunate legacies of the Gilded Age . . . [his] striking, lyrical language is an engrossing delight.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12 best Southern books to read this fall
“A masterful effort, an evocation of a vanished time and place.” —Wilmington Star-News
“A thriller, a sweeping epic, and historical fiction at its best.” —Charleston Gazette Mail
“Beautifully written in fresh, lyrical prose, Honey from the Lion brilliantly creates a land and a people experiencing tremendous change. Null successfully and engagingly presents the consequences of this change for both humans and the environment, leaving readers feeling like witnesses to it all.” —Booklist
“Award-winning short story author Null writes with an eye for the geography, players, and violent push of the Gilded Age profit engines. . . . A debut of note for fans of historical fiction, labor, or environmental issues, and Appalachian settings; read-alike authors include Denis Johnson and E.L. Doctorow.” —Library Journal, Summer Best Debuts
“Bound to become one of the most admired and influential fiction writers of his generation... Null has the chops to represent the American past in a way that is richly credible for its period and yet stylistically daring.” —Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule
“In one of the most assured debuts of the year, Matthew Neill Null tells the story of an American tragedy that began when Union soldiers from wealthy Eastern families first saw West Virginia’s thousands of acres of nearly impenetrable virgin forest. Honey from the Lion brings to mind the literature-as-history triumphs of E. L. Doctorow and Denis Johnson, yet Null is specific unto himself. His compressed, lyrical prose penetrates every darkness and wheels through time like a soaring bird.” —Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Quiet Dell and Lark and Termite
“Honey from the Lion is a master performance. Industry, capital, religion, class, race, and unionization are all rendered through the fully realized loggers, vigilantes, industrialists, and preachers that he conjures so utterly and empathetically. You will be awed and emptied by this book, and the truth and humanity within it. Honey from the Lion isn’t just beautiful it’s important. Read it now.” —Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek
“The timber boom of the early twentieth century logged out the great virgin spruce forests of West Virginia. The devastation was complete. No tree escaped the saw. From mountaintops the once green land looked like a mutilated sea. Matthew Neill Null elegantly and eloquently addresses this ecological tragedy and its attendant human diminishment in this thoughtful and moving novel.” —Joy Williams, author of The Quick and the Dead
“Matthew Neill Null recreates a time and place in our nation’s history in which the trajectory of progress seemed limitless and the wilderness and its resources inexhaustible. With exquisitely wrought characters, including the land itself, he takes us into the souls of the unremembered underdogs whose lives were ultimately the price of that progress. In this powerful novel, Null gives us a starkly vivid American story that is, at its dark heart, nothing less than the story of America.” —Lydia Peelle, author of Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
“Beautiful prose, vivid characterization, and meticulous research make Honey from the Lion an exceptional debut. Matthew Neill Null is a gifted and serious writer we need to pay attention to.” —Ron Rash, author of Serena