Julia Glass published her debut novel “Three Junes” in 2002 and, according to my book journal, I read it at the beginning of 2004. In the entry for it I have 4 stars (the highest possible), and I wrote, “Astounding! Why didn’t I write this? Fenno!!” Obviously, I loved it.
I read “Three Junes” over 10 years ago, but it feels like just yesterday that I was immersed in the lives of the McLeod family. Glass creates vivid, complex characters and it was hard to leave them when I finished the last page. Glass gives her readers a gift with “And the Dark Sacred Night” because she lets us in on what happened to some of the characters after “Three Junes” ended. The characters lives always go on…but most of the time us readers are left to wonder how it all really turned out.
Glass presents every day normal life with its beauty & sadness & confusion & love. She captures little nuances of the characters that make them feel like you have actually met in person. Her books usually switch around narrators which helps capture all the different viewpoints of people at different points in their lives. This narrative masterfully switches between the lives of Daphne, Kit, Jasper, Lucinda, and Fenno. The heart of the book is the story of Kit searching for his unknown father. As he searches, Glass explores what it means to make your own family and the profound impact that people who enter our lives for a very short amount of time can have.
If you haven’t read “Three Junes” by Julia Glass, read it before picking up “And the Dark Sacred Night” (not necessary, but it will be even more enjoyable that way). Together, they are perfect summer/vacation reading. Big, juicy, well-written novels that will immerse you in the tangled imperfect love that families of all kinds have.
I’ve been reading a lot the last few weeks. All the books have been good, and should be added to your list. What a luxury to do so much reading.
I devoured “Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell in about 2 hours. A young adult love story about 2 teenagers that is set in 1986 when mixed tapes were the most amazing gift ever. If you’ve read the book, I know you loved Park’s Dad! Fun, fast read. I’m glad that teenagers have books like this to read.
I also just finished “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” by Nancy Horan. The book is not as good as “Loving Frank” but it is still a worthwhile read. Fanny, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson (author of “Jekyll and Hyde” and “Treasure Island”) is the central character in this historical fiction. A rule-breaker and a fearless female who divorced her first husband and traveled all alone to Europe with 3 children to pursue art in the 1800’s. The life that she and Stevenson led was extraordinary. They traveled all over the world searching for a place that would be a good habitat for Stevenson’s consumptive lungs.
At one point Stevenson is homesick for his native Scotland, “How bitterly ironic to be surrounded by palm trees, flying foxes, sweet-smelling gardenias, red and yellow fruit doves. And what do I see at every turn? My gray-pigeoned homeland.” When I read that line I was having massive homesickness for my family. It’s never easy wanting to be in two places at once, I can’t imagine what it must have been like before airplanes, FaceTime, and texting.
Another book I just read is “The Snow Queen” by Michael Cunningham. It is hard for me to describe how the writing of Michael Cunningham touches me. I love his sentences. I love the beauty of the ugly worlds he often describes. His books are like huge poems that I want to re-read because there are so many things that I feel like I missed. He writes simple sentences like, “People are more than you think they are. And they’re less, as well. The trick lies in negotiating your way between the two.” And then writes big, huge, gorgeous run-on sentences like,
The young couple is, it suddenly seems, what Beth came outside to see. She can’t of course know what troubles may beset them, or what troubles await, but she’s satisfied by the fleeting apparition of two young people who are doing fine, right now; who have each other to laugh with, to hold hands with; who can thoughtlessly pass between them the simplicity of youth, of love, of a night that must, for them, promise an endless strand of nights, a world that offers even more than they’d hoped for; that’s given them this snow blown street and the promise of home, soon, as if love and shelter were the simplest things in the world.
“The Snow Queen” explores the interdependency of siblings, middle-age, and losing people that we love way too soon. This is not an easy read, but I think you should still pick it up and give it a try.
Also, I just finished listening to “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana De Rosney. Listening to this powerful book about the Vel D’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris coincided with a visit I took to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. We are a horrible species in so many ways.
I am listening to “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd (an Oprah pick!)- all of sudden my commute has become one of the highlights of my day. The narrators in this audio version are spectacular. I feel like I am in the deep South in the early 1800’s. Both of these audio books have made me think a lot about what I would do if my comfortable life was on the line. I hope I would be brave and do the right thing.