Natural disaster combines with accident to make a wreckage of a life. Now, in the sympathetic hands of the long-absent Brown (Audubon’s Watch, 2001, etc.), it’s up to the protagonist to pick up the pieces.
Henry Garrett has been on the run, headlong, for days, fleeing New Orleans and the terror of Hurricane Katrina. Now, down in the quiet shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he rolls to an uncertain stop smack in the middle of the life of a “short, round Indian woman,” her glittery fingernails disguising a badly broken heart. Latangi takes him in without hesitation, knowing only that he has been driven from a home that may no longer exist—and certainly not knowing that the 41-year-old was “deep down, still just a dopey adolescent kid” when it comes to matters of the heart and deeply troubled when it comes to matters of the mind. Indeed, one of the things that Henry is running from is the possibility of inherited madness (“undone,” in the polite parlance of the South). But what has become of his wife and other loved ones? What is there to run toward? Henry is working on sorting all that out even as he accidentally kills an old prisoner working on a road crew, his arms raised “as if what he meant to do…was fly.” Putting an already unhinged fellow under additional stress is never a recipe for happiness, but Henry struggles to work it out, finding comfort in the sometimes-eccentric but deeply hospitable people of Amherst County. Henry yearns not for having “his mind set right” but for resumption, the ability to pick up his dreams where they left off, make peace with family, and get on with life. Thanks to the resourceful, gentle Latangi, who has troubles of her own, he gets there.
Populated by likable and believable characters, an affectionate, understated approach to questions of sanity, survival, and redemption.