A Sound Like Thunder

Written by Sonny Brewer
Review by Gerald T. Burke


The novel is set in Fairhope, Alabama, a small Gulf Coast town during the early years of World War II as Rove MacNee, the narrator, comes of age. He recalls fond family memories from his youth, especially the cherished times he spent with his maternal grandmother, Granny Wooten. He experiences first love with Anna Pearl Anderson, a beautiful fellow schoolmate who wins his heart. But his father, Dominus MacNee, had taken to drinking and being abusive for reasons that are not quite clear. He is especially brutal to Rove’s mother after long trips at sea as captain of the Mary Foster. As the story unfolds, Rove escapes the emotional disorder by rehabilitating and refitting a schooner given to him by Josef Unruh, who is of German descent and a former friend of the family. As tensions continue to build, so does Dominus’s hate of Josef. Clearly there are deeper and more personal reasons for Dominus’s rage than just his mistrust of Josef’s nationality.

Sonny Brewer’s novel skillfully counterpoints the larger conflict of a world at war by reflecting the turmoil of one family. Character development, particularly the maturation of Rove, and the attention to local detail recreate this unique time and place. This compelling story is also a universal one.