A folk-tale atmosphere as thickly constructed as an elaborate patchwork quilt is comfortably draped over the eccentric particulars of this 14th of the Arkansas author’s Stay More chronicles.
The book’s several narrators include a nameless recluse who, having been abandoned by his wife and having abandoned a prestigious job as chief curator of a museum of Americana, returns to his mother’s homeland in the Ozarks and takes up residence in a rock shelter he shares with his dog atop a remote mountain. The bluff-dweller eventually yields the page to an elderly female neighbor (identified only as the Woman) who dwells in a mountainside cabin, feeds and enlightens the narrator/bluff-dweller and gradually relates the story of her life. Other stories are told by an amiable young moonshiner (Jick); a historian (Eliza Cunningham) whose own history impels her to undertake the restoration of the aforementioned town; and a voice that knows the Woman’s entire hidden story and seems, at different times, close kin to both her late husband and an overarching spiritual presence that calls itself Kind. Harington (The Pitcher Shower, 2005, etc.) depicts the bluff-dweller (accompanied everywhere by his none-too-intrepid German Shepherd companion) as an Appalachian Robinson Crusoe, and the details of his acclimatization to the mountain’s many worlds have a truly bewitching charm and mystery. But the novel’s latter pages, which climax with a transformative Indian burial, appear to raise more questions than they answer. One feels that this strangely seductive novel’s virtually symphonic emphasis on last things is moving us toward the series’ conclusion—but Harington is giving nothing away.
“Is all of this a fairy tale? Is that why, as in a fairy tale, nobody has any names?” We may understand it better in the next Stay More novel; or, as they say hereabouts, farther along.