Thursday, May 28, 2009

In the Fall

How do I begin to write about a book that swept me away like this one? How do I explain to a reasonable person why I did this while I read -

- used a ridiculous amount of sticky notes to mark passages and prose that I wanted to revisit or remember or reread. Some of the notes drew arrows to entire paragraphs, often pages of words that brilliantly created a character, an emotion, a sense of place and time. Several passages were so stunning I read and reread them in amazement. As I neared the end of the story, I kept putting the book down and walking away to ponder what might come next, to postpone the ending, because I knew when I finished, I would be a bit lost without these characters, without this story, without another page to read.

What a gift to read such a riveting, truly American novel that begins with the Civil War and echoes for generations affected by the legacy of slavery and the mysteries of life and love. If it's not on your must read list, it should be.

Link follows to the author's website, where exquisite excerpts such as this await:

After midnight he was walking sentry, the Springfield loose alongside him held in just one hand, his tunic unbuckled, open to more than just the spring night. In the darkness he paused and as he stood looking at those men the idea of leaving them frightened him a little. He wondered if the men there he knew from Bethel or Randolph or Royalton or Chelsea would come upon him in years ahead and nod their greeting and pass along by as if this were all nothing more but a great and forever silent part of their lives. Norman knew how glad he'd be back up on the farm with his arms bloody on February mornings from birthing lambs or his back burned and sore from lifting forkfuls of hay from the hot fields. The war was already breaking apart into fragments for his memory to hold, the odd things: the squirrel racing back along the road through the advancing troops that first day at Second Bull Run; the summer mist burning off the Potomac as they marched north into Pennsylvania two summers before; the man out on the field well before him who landed on his back and for a long moment seemed to hold the cannonball with both arms to his belly before he flew apart under it; the boy face up and his mouth open to the air, flies already pooled around his eyes as he called a woman's name, his tone plaintive as if she were nearby and ignoring him. These sights and others, each forever etched in its own small box of his mind. Life after this was not so simple a thing as going home and carrying on from where he'd left off, and he remembered his father's death, a news that at the time seemed just one more in a long chain of life poured out upon the ground. Now he could begin to feel it as the hole he'd forever carry forward with himself: not having the chance to not talk about the war with his father, not even having that silent presence there beside him as he birthed those lambs or dug that potato ground. He was watching his fellows and himself all at once when from behind him she said, "Norman don't you shoot me with that gun of yours."


  1. You have a blog! Yay, yay, yay! And you're blogging books! Awesome. I am putting you in my blog roll immediately. :)

  2. I adored this book and would like to revisit it again soon.
    Thanks for visiting my blog today!

    Ooooh, my word verification was "hothead!"