www.annemoore.net

 

 

 

 

 

Books: The Darling

Can a book be grieved? It’s not a person, after all, or a beloved pet, or a plant you’ve cared for and coaxed into bloom each spring. It’s a book.

I’ve said before that books are like lovers. Private companions. We take them to bed, tuck them into our bags, panic (as I did) when we misplace a book pages from its conclusion.

picture The object of my grief? Russell Banks “The Darling” (2004). Hannah Musgrave is a 60ish hippie farmer who returns to Africa to find the body of her husband and the fate of their three young sons.

Hello? Why is a counterculture WASP who clings to her Puritan roots sneaking into Liberia in the back of a flatbed, under a tarp?

The answer to that question is the story of the book, and in Banks’ hands it is a deliciously slow, steady, surprising read.

It’s a discomfiting tale. Hannah is variously cold, uncaring, willfully blind, criminal, proud, foolish, naive, mean, generous, racist, sexist. Also, an adulterer, and a thief. Her husband is a high-level functionary in a corrupt African government; it is he who calls her Hannah, darling.

Like the characters in Banks’ “The Book of Jamaica” (1980) and “Continental Drift “(1985), Hannah is the American dreamer who loses herself in a foreign place, with tragic consequences.

As with all Banks’ work, this is a story of place. He weaves Liberia’s fantastic past into the story’s present, where the nation and its decorous capital turn from civility to savagery.

I didn’t especially like Hannah — she trades a false American existence for a hollow wifely life in Africa — but I understood her choices. At its close, I felt like I’d lost a difficult but treasured friend, one whose life was more varied, and more foolish.

Also in the blog

Let’s begin with books. I read, and loved, so many.* Most recently, A.M. Homes’ novel May We Be Forgiven, which begins with a series of unforgivable acts: a mindless and deadly car crash, adultery, murder. The only arc could be upwards, yes? Well, no — not in Homes’ New York suburbia. Before we arrive at

(...)

A thriller that’s beautifully written and carefully told is a rare thing. “Man in the Woods,” by Scott Spencer, is that impossible-to-find read that satisfies on multiples levels. “Will he get away with it?” drives this story peopled by richly drawn, complex characters. Paul Phillips is a high-priced carpenter whose expertise in restoring old homes

(...)

Good friends made it easy to show off Chicago’s rich offerings of art, architecture, parks, museums and food this weekend. Affable and curious, they had ideas of what they wanted to see and experience while in town, but didn’t overdo it. With just a few hours left on Sunday, could they get to Ernest Hemingway’s

(...)