Harington’s Stay More saga of novels, 40 years on, comes to a close—perhaps.
It’s an Arkansas version of the Tale of Genji, an Ozarkian Odyssey: At any rate, many volumes of many hundreds of pages each add up to one of the most ambitious fictional cycles in American literature. Harington (Farther Along, 2008, etc.) builds the tale of a character who has figured, sometimes peripherally, throughout. Latha Bourne is smart, sensitive and out of place in the backwoods village of Stay More, populated by those whom Harington long ago branded “Staymorons.” (An Arkansan, he can get away with it.) Told many years later from a descendant’s point of view, Latha’s story is not a happy one; she is molested and maltreated in a chaotic time, when war is making strangers of men being pulled off for the trenches of France. For various reasons she spends time under psychiatric care, a staple of Ingledew family lore thereafter. A new mother—complexities abound there—she finds herself on the road, meeting the people one meets there, drifters and veterans “looking for the right place,” and traveling full circle “on stretches of primitive road that wandered and meandered and forked,” lost in a countryside that even natives find difficult to traverse. Latha makes her way home in time, settling among disapproving townies while cajoling her husband-to-be to share her bed (a one-time preacher, he still “didn’t want to sleep with Latha until they were married”) and otherwise scandalizing the locals. Life moves on, and Harington’s tale swallows up whole decades. His affect is sometimes faux-naif, but underlying this tale are moments of apparent homage to Faulkner’s Light in August (and perhaps even Sanctuary); throughout, he writes elegantly of a time gone by, and of people whom, in real life, time would have forgotten.
Elegiac and complex—a feast of Southerly words that will please Harington’s many admirers.