Title: The Coffins
Author: Deborah Dunn
Deborah Dunn, in her new novel, The Coffins, takes the reader back and forth in time, from 1587 when Eleanor anticipates becoming Queen of the New Eden and mother of Virginia, to 2015, where her protagonist, Andrea Warren, returns to North Carolina on a mission to solve the mystery of her father’s alleged suicide - his death having occurred while he was searching for the coffins of Beechland.
In her quest for truth, Andrea begins seeing clear visions of scenes from the 1500s: nature as untouched and pure as it was back in the day… she sees herself in deerskin clothes and shell necklace, hair woven and secured by bones and combs of fish skeleton as she paddles a canoe downstream - or is this Virginia Dare she is seeing? It’s nothing strange for Andrea to find herself in two simultaneous worlds: both in the New World and in the modern age of smart phones and Siri.
Throughout the story, whole scenes materialize before her eyes, as if she’s watching a movie. In these visions she sees murders: While peering into the water at Old Ferry Landing she feels her father’s presence, hears a single shot, smells gun smoke, and hears the thud of a body falling to the ground… She witnesses Willie tossed into Columbia Creek “like yesterday’s fish guts”… she sees a nursing home where a needle is sliding into Aunt Polly’s veins… Dereck holding an assault rifle, starving refugees, innocents crying in agony and disbelief…
Deborah Dunn’s fictional dream takes the reader on a tour through North Carolina’s coastal districts adorned with cypress trees and Spanish moss, awash with choppy waves and cawing seagulls, warm sunshine, dark clouds, deep woods, and into a world where past and present intersect. In The Coffins we see at play the truth of William Faulkner’s words: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born.”
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