Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lark & Termite

Structure. Jayne Anne Phillips’ latest novel, Lark & Termite, is one of the most finely structured novels I’ve read in years, and her skill with language, characters and the description of sensations combine to make this a great novel. Philipps presents in parallel two six-day time periods: one in 1950, and the other in 1959. This is a vivid story of the ties of an extended family despite all obstacles. The 1950 period is set mostly in Korea in the early days of the war when Robert Leavitt, the husband and father, is a soldier in dire straits. His wife, Lola, awaits his return from war, as she gifts birth to a disabled boy who’s called Termite. The 1959 period is set mostly in West Virginia where Lola grew up, and where her sister, Nonie, is the guardian of both Lola’s older child, Lark, and of Termite. The love and caring will take your breath away, as will the poetic writing, and deep character development over the course of a compact novel. Lark & Termite is the rare novel that I think I will enjoy as much or more on a second reading.

Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)

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