Book Review

Shiner By Amy Jo Burns | Book Review

Hey there! My name is Max and I will be reviewing a book christened Shiner by Amy Jo Burns today! I would like to thank Times Reads for sending a copy of this book to me! So, without further ado, let us get into the review section of this article.

Genre: Literary Fiction; Contemporary


On a lush mountaintop trapped in time, two women vow to protect each other at all costs-and one young girl must defy her father to survive.

An hour from the closest West Virginia mining town, fifteen-year-old Wren Bird lives in a cloistered mountain cabin with her parents. They have no car, no mailbox, and no visitors-except for her mother’s lifelong best friend. Every Sunday, Wren’s father delivers winding sermons in an abandoned gas station, where he takes up serpents and praises the Lord for his blighted white eye, proof of his divinity and key to the hold he has over the community, over Wren and her mother.

But over the course of one summer, a miracle performed by Wren’s father quickly turns to tragedy. As the order of her world begins to shatter, Wren must uncover the truth of her father’s mysterious legend and her mother’s harrowing history and complex bond with her best friend. And with that newfound knowledge, Wren can imagine a different future for herself than she has been told to expect.

Rich with epic love and epic loss, and diving deep into a world that is often forgotten but still part of America, Shiner reveals the hidden story behind two generations’ worth of Appalachian heartbreak and resolve. Amy Jo Burns brings us a smoldering, taut debut novel about modern female myth-making in a land of men-and one young girl who must ultimately open her eyes.


“Grief hadn’t kept him away. Shame had. His daughter’s lack of faith had made him mortal, like that moment Adam first felt shame at his own nakedness in the Garden of Eden, even though he’d been naked all along.” – Amy Jo Burns, Shiner.

This story follows Wren Bird who lives in a sequestered mountain cabin in West Virginia with her parents. Her father, who is a pastor that delivers sermons and takes up serpents and praises the Lord in an abandoned gas station, does not allow her to go to school and does not believe in medical help. The plot begins when a miracle that the pastor performs turns into a tragedy, shattering the carefully composed life of Wren forever. This novel denotes the lives of women and their mode of survival in the Appalachian Mountains and the hope that Wren possesses in the face of adversity.

If I was coerced to select the strongest essence that this novel possesses, I would pick the writing style of the book. To be completely frank, I did not enjoy the writing style when I inaugurated the pilgrimage of reading this novel because I did not find the protagonist’s voice all that fascinating and I thought the writing was lacking substance. However, as I proceeded, the writing style began to grow on me and eventually, the author managed to win me over and find herself in the company of a new fan – me – through this novel.

I found it singularly astounding that the author’s use of juxtaposition could rattle my literary heart in so many distinct ways. The placing of these sentences and the construction of them felt very intentional…? It felt like they were there to make the readers feel a certain way (and it definitely succeeded because I was hypnotized by it). It was as if the author had decided to whip up a certain preternatural ingredient and put it in her writing.

Also, I became aware of this tremendously captivating thing that the author did with this novel while I was reading the second part of the book and that thing was the use of parts to uncover the past of the characters and to allow the readers to get glimpses of other characters’ lives to acquire a broader perspective of the story. I found that to be immensely clever as the past influenced the present and the future of these characters and it felt like they were all tied in this circular loop that they could not avoid or break out of because of the things they did.

Definitely one of the most spellbinding pith I’ve read in a while.

“And once the winter faded and the rains came and the corn grew high and strong-we would cull it and grind it, soak it and shine it. We’d let the heat of the fire refine us and the cold of the creek wash us clean. And like the hills that watch us get born and die and be born again, we would rise.” – Amy Jo Burns, Shiner.

I thought the character section of this book was strong and weak at the same time. I know these two exist in vastly different spectrums, but it did indeed feel that way for me. They were enrapturing, but at the same time, they lacked the nuance of a person and the pizzazz of what makes a character real. I enjoyed the background of the characters and their individual story when it was patently told through their point of view, but I can also recognize that they were used as pawns to move the plot forward. In addition, the romance was arrhythmic and it was definitely forced as there was not any buildup leading to it. It felt like the author had inundated the readers with a barrage of love out of the blue so, that hampered my enjoyment a smidgen, but other than that, I thought they were compelling.

“My father remained the mountain’s favourite outlaw, my mother his sacrifice. I hated my part in the myth. I was nameless, faceless. A pause in my father’s tale of glory. Briar Bird was not a man, a father, or a husband. He was a story, and nothing else.” – Amy Jo Burns, Shiner.

I enjoyed the brevity and clarity of the novel as the author did not meander or ponder on descriptions that were not useful in any way and because of how concise it was, the pacing moved smoothly as well. Also, the concepts such as the importance of women’s voices, and the power of female friendship that the author was trying to convey did get through to me in a coherent and palatable manner.

Final Verdict: 80% (A)

This is the end of my review for Shiner By Amy Jo Burns! I hope you all enjoyed it and follow me with your email/Wordpress account to get notifications when I post a new article! Bye!

3 thoughts on “Shiner By Amy Jo Burns | Book Review

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