Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Then Came the Evening, Brian Hart

This is a new book by a first time novelist, just released last week.  Bandy and Ione live near Lake Fork, Idaho;  this book picks up after their breakup when she leaves him and he ends up murdering a policeman (in the first chapter).  It goes through the chronology of their separate lives and that of their son Tracy, through numerous difficulties including disease, drug abuse, abandonment, and death.

Hart is masterful in his level of detail: I felt like I had actually visited the locations near Lake Fork that he described. None of his characters are typical, in fact, they are all unusually complex, which makes the reading very interesting. There's many surprises in this novel, as the story weaves through many different lives. I enjoyed the detail of it all.

However, the mood of the novel is hard to grasp. It's not just that it is depressing (it is) but also that I couldn't seem to focus on one character long enough to be drawn to them before he switches characters. It seemed like he jumped around characters so frequently that none of them were fully developed and I couldn't grasp a warmth or "pull" to any of them or their plight. And it frustrated me that there was never really any attempt to explain why the characters acted as they did (except for Tracy). I just felt like it was a bit disjointed, and wish there had been more focus on developing a single character or two, rather than placing so many complicated characters in without more depth.

While he is compared to Cormac McCarthy, I have to disagree. The style may be similar in the intense level of descriptiveness, but McCarthy made his characters come alive, and every thought and action became part of who they were, even if they were unsympathetic villains. In this, the characters were complicated but without as much depth as to feel completely real.

I look forward to more novels by this author, though, purely for the feel of the location and place as influenced by nature, weather, and people.

Thanks to Bloomsbury USA for the advanced copy to review!

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