I am not spoiling anything when I tell you that this was a very difficult book to read because it turns on the death of a daughter and her father’s attempts to go on living. The daughter’s death is announced in the first paragraph. It is not her story. It is her father’s. It would spoil things to say anything about the mother.
Harding, a Pulitzer Prize winner for Tinkers, is an astonishing writer, much in the mode of Marilynne Robinson. That is both the highest praise and something of a warning. If you read either book, you should not be expecting a lot of plot or even pace. You should, however, both expect and relish sentences, sometimes epic, that poke and prod their way to things both profound and spiritual. There is truth in their writing and beauty in how they present it.
The two motifs Harding develops, the idea of life being a kind of stage, and the notion of a world – both in time and space – between worlds – are so well-chosen and well-described that their aptness still echoes within me. I saw myself in this book, in the father and his view of life. Reading it was a kind of necessary reckoning.