And the Dark Sacred Night
Julia Glass won the National Book Award for her first novel, THREE JUNES, in 2002, and she immediately found a high-profile place in the American literary pantheon. In her latest effort, AND THE DARK SACRED NIGHT, she returns to some of the characters from that book and weaves yet another tale of identity, family and destiny in her own accessible yet poetic way.
Before I tell you anything else, allow me to wax rhapsodic about the beauty of Glass’s prose. This is the kind of book that literary fiction aficionados will celebrate for its gorgeous wordsmithery. However, her intelligence and ability to put the perfect words together is never more important than the story she is trying to tell. The characters are all richly detailed and considered; there is no one in the book that doesn’t add something significant to the proceedings. The plot is far-reaching but never complicated; you won’t be going back and forth reading past passages in order to get to the heart of what comes next. Glass is a whiz at telling stories, period, and her new novel shows off more of her strengths as a celebrated fiction writer.
"The characters are all richly detailed and considered; there is no one in the book that doesn’t add something significant to the proceedings. The plot is far-reaching but never complicated; you won’t be going back and forth reading past passages in order to get to the heart of what comes next."
AND THE DARK SACRED NIGHT features several locales: from suburban New Jersey to rural Vermont and, ultimately, to the tip of Cape Cod. It begins as a decidedly American story. An unemployed art historian named Kit Noonan has a family to support (with twins) and bills to pay, like anybody, but his wife finds his lack of forward movement daunting and annoying. She feels that the one thing Kit needs to discover is who his dad is, a man he has never known --- and, with that mystery solved, perhaps he will be able to find his own way in the world and help his family get to a better place.
Kit takes off to hang out with Jasper, who treats the wilderness as his personal Outward Bound. The men are stuck together in a cabin while a blizzard rages, and they end up with a deal. Although he swore to Kit’s mom that he would never help Kit find his dad, Jasper decides to get him in touch with Lucinda and Zeke Burns (Lucinda is the mother of Malachy, the music critic who died of AIDS in THREE JUNES). They send him on to their son, Fenno McLeod, and Fenno’s longtime companion, Walter. In trying to track down these men and learn something about his missing father, Kit becomes embroiled in family secrets and plots that he never knew existed.
The story of one man searching to find his own identity amidst the secrets of the past sounds like the stuff of romance novels. However, in the hands of the very talented Glass, this twisty tale brings to light serious truths about the depths to which one must go to know oneself and the joy and release that can be found when one forgives past indiscretions --- their own and everyone else’s.
Kit is as complete a character as you could wish to spend time with --- smart and thoughtful, silly and hopeful, caring and angry. There is little in his search that can be, at its core, comfortable, and Glass doesn’t skirt away from the ugliness that can come from uncovering the past and digging up all that dirt. The skeletons she finds for Kit at the bottom of those empty graves are filled with answers to mysteries that her readers will be glad to have solved. If you love this book, you can go back and read THREE JUNES, which offered a strange but compelling jumping-off point for the stories in this new volume. Together, they will prove to you that Glass is not just talented but almost prophetic in acknowledging our sequel-crazy world without falling prey to the vanities of putting together a bestselling “franchise.”
This not-quite-a-sequel takes the same issues and develops them in the face of one man’s middle-age journey to a higher knowledge of himself --- a journey in which everyone can find a common thread, a journey that will resonate with readers for a long time after the last page is turned.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on April 4, 2014
And the Dark Sacred Night
- Publication Date: April 1, 2014
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon
- ISBN-10: 0307377938
- ISBN-13: 9780307377937