A rich, many-layered novel from one of our major writers, her first in nine years.
Set in the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea, it is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us.
At its center: Lark and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but full of radiance; their mother, Lola; their aunt, Nonie, who raises them; and Termite’s father, Corporal Robert Leavitt, who finds himself caught up in the chaotic early months of the Korean War. Told with enormous imagination and deep feeling, the novel invites us into the hearts and thoughts of each of the leading characters; even into Termite’s intricate, shuttered consciousness. We are with Leavitt, trapped by friendly fire. We see Lark’s hopes for herself and Termite, and how she makes them happen. We learn of Lola’s love for her soldier husband and children, and unravel the mystery of her relationship with Nonie. We discover the lasting connections between past and future on the night the town experiences an overwhelming flood, and we follow Lark and Termite as their lives are changed forever.
From Phillips (Motherkind; Shelter) comes a long-awaited and wonderful coming-of-age tale of grief and survival. The story straddles a parallel six-day period in July, one in 1959 during which 17-year-old Lark; her brother, Termite, who can't talk; and their aunt and caretaker, Nonie, are struggling to balance hope and despair in smalltown West Virginia and nine years earlier, when Termite's father, Robert Leavitt, serves a tour in Korea. Lark, living with her aunt without knowing who her father is or why her mother gave her up, was nine years old when baby Termite landed on their doorstep. Nonie works long hours at a local restaurant to support the hodgepodge family, leaving Lark to take over mothering duties, but as Lark finishes secretarial school and realizes how limited the options are for her and Termite, forces of nature and odd individuals shed light on mysteries of the past and lend a hand in steering the next course of action. Through Robert and Nonie's stories and by exposing the innermost thoughts of each character, Phillips creates a wrenching portrait of devotion while keeping the suspense at a palpitating level.