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IN CIRCLING FLIGHT by Jane Harrington


by Jane Harrington

Pub Date: June 1st, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-944467-25-8
Publisher: Brighthorse Books

Harrington’s debut novel explores an expanding web of relationships in modern-day Appalachia.

The novel opens onto loss, the precise nature of which is only revealed obliquely. Addressing her absent husband, John, Leda lyrically describes her deep attachment to her newly adopted canine and her attunement to the waxing and waning seasons. It’s only gradually that readers come to realize what happened to him. As she grapples with the effects of his absence, Leda fills her days by ministering to the needs of others: her dog, her goats (whose caprices take on delightfully human characterization), and a precocious writing student with a tendency toward self-harm. Perhaps most consequential are the Sullivans, a family dealing with the environmental fallout of coal mining, to whom Leda, as a volunteer with the local food bank, develops close bonds. Rather than remaining fixated on Leda’s search for closure, the book opens up to explore a constellation of characters, landscapes, and histories. As it progresses through a series of vignettes that could each stand alone, the novel is propelled by the rhythms of natural and human life cycles. The shaping force of the land and its nonhuman inhabitants is central, as when a Sullivan ancestor finds himself in the Blue Ridge Mountains: “his heart had kept pace with wave against shore, wave against shore, his blood coursing with the rhythm of the Ballydonegan River.” At times, it recalls the work of authors such as Annie Dillard and Barbara Kingsolver. Although a number of specters haunt the novel—suicide, the aftereffects of the war in Iraq, environmental degradation, and even the Irish Potato Famine—it also explores the healing potential of domestic rituals, queer love, and communities formed through music and activism.

A moving fictional depiction of collective movement through hardship.