A teenager living in a dwindling Indiana commune takes care of an old man, grieves her brother’s death, and delivers a newcomer’s baby.
Van Eerden's (Glorybound, 2012) second novel continues probing the lives of small-town residents with sentences that crackle as if broadcast by radio waves. “Even my sad thoughts might be beautiful ones. Maybe they’re the most beautiful of all,” says Omi Ruth. The commune, Dunlap Fellowship of All Things in Common, intended for sharing life as Jesus’ disciples did, has shrunk from 22 families until hardly anyone remains. It’s teetering on the brink of extinction—“the Common Purse that never has enough in it to go around”—when Tracie, an itinerant pregnant woman, shows up seeking shelter and fueling Omi’s imagination. An avid National Geographic reader and mosaic maker, Omi wants her name “in a poem, not a Bible encyclopedia.” Her characterization of experiences she feels unprepared for—of her first period she says, “the light doesn’t reach where I am. And another drop of my womb’s blood leaves me. The bright thick red leaves”—contrasts with ordinary desires. Living in a house called Solomon’s Porch, she wishes for “a real wraparound porch, a real swing to swing on alone”—the stuff of mainstream Americana. These desires shape her interactions with young men outside Solomon’s Porch and help form her close bond with her brother, Wood. His death punctuates her loneliness, and so when elderly Northrup is carried home to convalesce, Omi spends days in one-way conversation until he, too, dies. To honor Wood, she breaks the Common Purse’s rules, ordering an elaborate tombstone “engraved in cursive that moves like waves of water.” Omi and Tracie’s friendship grows into a sisterhood when Omi learns that both women shared a love for Wood.
A haunting, original meditation that engages all the senses.