In the Fall (Lent)

Take a moment to savor the connotations of that title. The fall of? The fall of man? The fall as in the season? The fall of America? What or who is in the fall?

That the title merits even those questions (and more, I’m sure) is only the beginning of the power of Lent’s words. I am a pretty fast reader, but this one requires slow and careful attention. Lent’s stunning sentences constantly kept me off-balance. He omits the unnecessary, and an honest reading of this book makes you realize how many unnecessary words there are (in books, in conversation). Lent earns the comparisons to Cormac McCarthy. It’s hard to believe I can call a 542-page book spare, but I can.

The story covers three generations during an often unexamined period of American History. Post-Civil War to the beginning of the Depression. We move from father to son to his son. That can make the book sound male-dominated, and maybe that’s true, but there are three pretty powerful women here too – the matriarch of the family, Leah, and her two daughters, Abigail and Prudence.

There was only one moment I really didn’t buy – the transformation of Jamie (the son at the center of the second section) from an admittedly reluctant son of a farmer to a gangster. How does he know of life in the city, much less almost immediately have the skills and confidence to become a part of it?

A wonderfully evocative novel about changes in America and trying to account for the changes in one family.


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