Whisper Hollow


Within each of us, our unspoken truths lie buried under time and pressure like a seam of coal underground. But when someone comes along and threatens to excavate those private tragedies, the question becomes: how far would you go to keep the past in its place?

For three very different women from two generations of coal-mining families living on the hillsides of Whisper Hollow in southern West Virginia, the answer is: as far as they must.

indie_next_list_logoReleased March 2015 from Other Press.

Click here to order a signed copy.

Click here to read an excerpt.SIBA Finalist


Long listed for the 2016 SIBA The Great Santini Fiction Prize

Nominated for the 2015 Kirkus Prize: Fiction

Chosen by the American Booksellers Association for the Indie Next Great Reads List 


~Kirkus Reviews (STARRED REVIEW)
“Cander divinely delves into multiple points of view, crafting a collage of vibrant, layered characters while charting six decades of poignant, precise moments. A distinctive novel that sublimely measures the distressed though determined heartbeat of a small mountain community.”

~Shelf Awareness (STARRED REVIEW)
“Cander weaves together the stories of these varied characters across nearly five decades with skill and grace, and in her hands, Whisper Hollow grows into much more than the sum of its many parts. The result is a memorable novel about the bonds of town and family, the strength of friendships in unlikely places and the power of secrets to shape a life–or many lives–often without anyone even recognizing it.”

“Cander superbly envisions the town, its residents’ dynamics, and the early twentieth-century immigrant experience…[and] rewards the reader with…well-developed, believable characters whose mental fortitude and capacity to love linger in the reader’s mind long after the last page.”

~Publishers Weekly
“[Whisper Hollow] is inextricably rooted in West Virginia coal country—the rough locale that determines and intertwines [Cander’s] characters’ fates…Cander closely tracks how Myrthen’s and Alta’s romantic decisions unknowingly complicate each other’s lives in the lead-up to a tragic incident that bisects the novel…[and] admirably captures the lack of choice that men and women have in rural West Virginia.”

~Library Journal
“Spare, elegant writing by the author of 11 Stories evokes a bleak atmosphere and creates a smooth, compelling narrative… much of the prose is so outstanding, this writer is clearly gifted.  Give this literary, plot-driven novel to those who enjoy the West Virginia setting and who like a gentle handling of their tragedies.”

~Ann-Marie MacDonald, author of Fall on Your Knees
“With memorable characters and a haunting setting, Chris Cander weaves a compelling tale of the transformative power of love in the face of buried truths that threaten literally to explode.”

~Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You to Do: Stories
“Like D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, Chris Cander’s beautiful novel, Whisper Hollow, is about love that finds its object, and love that misses its mark and becomes destructive, in a community of coal miners. The story’s locale is one where love (for God, or others) is blocked or displaced until that moment when it can finally express itself, in a setting where work itself may be deadly and time may always run out. Chris Cander’s understanding of men and women is profound, and the scenes in this wonderful book will stay with you like a visionary experience.”

~Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“Sometimes fiction is so good, so authentic, and the storyteller so convincing, that it just feels true. Whisper Hollow is one of those books. I’m blown away, honestly. Chris Cander has created characters with immortal souls.” 

~Peter Geye, author of The Lighthouse Road
“The men in Chris Cander’s Whisper Hollow toil underground, in the dark and dangerous coal mines of West Virginia. But her women mine territory twice as dark and twice as dangerous, they mine the human heart. Love and loss, devotion and longing, hope and despair, Cander renders all of this and more through the lives of three women spanning more than fifty years. Here is a novel so full of life—of its beauty and cruelty—that I emerged from it like one of those men walking from mines she so wonderfully evokes, like a man walking from the darkness into the light.”

~Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly
Whisper Hollow is a haunting novel about the malleability of memory, about secrets and trickery, and about saints who are sinners and sinners who are saints. Cander paints a colorful portrait of a multi-ethnic, multi-generational West Virginia coal camp: a heaven of opportunity to some, a hell of stunted choices to others.”

~David Eagleman, author of SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
“Cander writes with tremendous power and originality. Whisper Hollow grabs the reader with an immediacy that does not let go: this novel is inspired, haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful.”

~Pamela Klinger-Horn, Magers & Quinn Booksellers
“What a great cast of female characters! Set in a West Virginia mining town, Whisper Hollow explores the complex lives of three very different women: Myrthen harbors a cold heart behind a face of piety, Alta is torn between duty to her family and the man she truly loves, and Lidia is a loving young mother who harbors a dark secret. When town scandals that are buried as deep as the mines threaten to come to light, each woman must test her courage.  This riveting story with an explosive ending makes for an ‘unputdownable’ read, and a great novel for book clubs to discuss.”

~Jeremy Ellis, Brazos Bookstore
“Chris Cander’s debut novel is a multi-generational epic about religion and obsession in a West Virginia coal mining town. A terrible moment in 1916 echoes across decades, shaping the way an entire community understands good and evil. Beautiful prose and unique, well drawn characters make Whisper Hollow one of the most auspicious debuts of the season.”

~Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop
“Oh, the secrets in Verra, West Virginia run deep and deadly. This multi-generational saga of families holds love, sorrow, and religion up to a mirror and then turns on itself. Myrthen loses her twin sister at a very early age and spends the rest of her life trying to atone for the accident. Alta loves and loses. Lidia has a secret that is causing her nightmares. Set in treacherous coal mining country, this novel will be perfect for book clubs.”