Written By: Tiffany Quay Tyson
Published By: Skyhorse Publishing
Reviewed By:  Morgan Lee

When the unyielding heat and humidity of the Mississippi Delta drive siblings Bert, Willet, and Pansy to take a dip in the old rock quarry, they had no idea that only two of them would return. Six-year-old Pansy, the obvious favorite child, has vanished without a trace in the place locals refer to as the Devil’s place because of its sordid Pre-Civil War history.The entire town looks for Pansy and questions everyone involved to no avail. The quarry is drained and old automobiles, beer bottles, and a few fossils are found, but no body. Their father, who disappears for days at a time selling counterfeit money, is a suspect, but he cannot be found either.

As years go by, guilt-ridden Willet and Bert never stop looking for their sister and when clues from the past resurface, they follow them to the Florida Everglades. Tyson takes readers on a fast-paced journey that blends the past, present, and future and blurs the lines between good and evil as well as fantasy and reality. Tyson personifies guilt in Bert and Willet forces the reader to contemplate the responsibilities of family and the sacrifices people make in the name of love.

This novel also draws parallels between violence and compassion and redemption. Can evil become trapped in a place over time? And can that evil ever be overcome? Will the truth set you free or is it better left buried?
The Past is Never is a dark, lyrical, gothic Southern novel that uses magic realism and folklore to show how people born decades apart can influence and shape each other over time. The novel also explores the nature of families and how the mistakes of the parents shape their children and their perception of the world. Tyson’s stylistic writing and unique voice bring the reader into the heart of the Mississippi Delta and creates an eerie atmosphere similar to that of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary and William Gay’s Twilight.

Tyson effectively tells this story from multiple time periods and viewpoints including Bert and Willet in the 1970s and present day, their Grandma Clem’s journey to becoming a midwife for troubled girls in the 1940s, and an 1863 slave revolt that resulted in the deaths of many.

This book will appeal to fans of mystery, horror, historical fiction, and family dramas. Tyson’s second book is a notable contribution to Southern gothic fiction and I am excited to see what this author will write next. Tyson is a Mississippi native and currently teaches writing at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado.

Morgan Lee is a librarian at the Central Mississippi Regional Library System.