A literary novel follows two Southern families connected by an accident.
Josh Lovejoy has enough problems as a 17-year-old in Milledge, Georgia—a stern father and filmmaking dreams he’s unsure how to pursue—before he gets high and drives into a jogger. The runner turns out to be David Masters, a beloved local activist who is planning a congressional run: “Josh noticed something out of the corner of his eye, something moving, and then, before he could notice anything else, he realized he’d hit something, he’d braked, that something had happened.” Josh ends up sentenced to community service, but the accident has severe emotional repercussions for his parents. Helen, a frustrated painter, slips into a depressive episode while Hal, a severe clockmaker, moves into his shop and decides to wash his hands of his family. The trauma extends to the Masters household. David’s wife, Meg, a second-grade teacher, attempts to grapple with her feelings of grief, anger, confusion, and resentment—toward Josh, yes, but also her husband. David remains alive but comatose. He is visited regularly by the apparition of singer Peggy Lee, who forces David to examine an old friendship that started him on his career in public service. As five lives attempt to move past this tragic event, the bonds of love, family, and forgiveness are stretched to their greatest limits. Baker’s (Mail-Order Bride, 2017) prose is crisp and precise, tethered to her characters’ emotions in a way that imbues every scene and observation with meaning: “Their life together had always followed a punctual, orderly progression. Now the oven clock said 5:20 and the wall clock said 3:05 and then the digital bedroom clock...just blinked 12:00.” The characters are finely drawn, and Baker isn’t afraid to spend a lot of time on the way they process the eruptions in their lives (though, at nearly 400 pages, a little less time would have been fine). No major revelations or twists are hiding in the bushes. Rather, this is a serious and engrossing exploration of tragedy and the emotions that come with it.
An absorbing and deliberatively composed tale about reactions to trauma.