Indiana, Indiana (The Dark and Lovely Portions of the Night) (2003)
Author: Laird Hunt
Noah Summers is a simple man living a simple life on a remote farm in rural Indiana. The book reveals little information at first, but through memories, dreams and letters, the author very slowly pieces together Noah’s life and offers fragmented glimpses of the reasons for Noah’s solitary existence. Despite the fact that his father was well educated and frequently quoted the classics, Noah is only barely literate and more importantly, he sees visions, which only serves to emphasize his isolation from others. He finds his soul mate in Opal, a beautiful young woman who is mentally unstable. SPOILER: After only a few months of marriage, Opal sets fire to their house and is sent away to the state mental hospital. Her parents won’t allow Noah to see her because he is not normal himself. Opal has Noah’s baby which is put up for adoption. Noah spends the rest of his life reading Opal’s letters and hoping to see her again. Their son, Max, now a grown man visits Noah regularly.
Geographical Setting: Kirklin, Indiana.
Time Period: early–1900s to present day.
This book is extremely slow paced and constantly switches from present to past with no notice. The narration also switches frequently from third person as you observe Noah, to first person as you experience one of his memories or visions – almost as if you were seeing things through Noah’s eyes. The prose is very dreamlike and quite beautiful at times and might appeal to poetry fans. The author seems more interested in creating images and moods than he is in telling a story, but the way he reveals the fragments bit by bit makes for compelling reading as the puzzle pieces fall into place. The setting is Indiana, but it could easily be any small farm on the edge of any small mid-western town as the landscape and geography are not described to any great detail.
Similar Authors: Michael Ondaatje (especially his poetry and early works); Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
Red Flags: none