for June 1, 2009
Lark and Termite Jayne Ann Phillips. Knopf. 2009
PS3566.H479 L37 2009
Veteran wordsmith Phillips weaves together two stories, one in West Virginia in 1959 and one in wartime North Korea, the same days, nine years earlier. In the former, a meek and perceptive teen, Lark, tends to her brother, Termite, who lacks speech, who can't walk and is pulled everywhere in a wagon. Corporal Robert Leavitt, whose connection to Lark and Termite emerges during the narrative, is wounded and dying during the Korean War.
It is a story of ontology and of origins, of characters acutely aware of the present, the right-now present, while many elements of their past, they cannot access.
Phillips's prose is urgent, her characters intricately drawn and sympathetic.
The book earned a starred review from Publisher's Weekly; in a back-cover blurb, Alice Munro says, "This novel is cut like a diamond, with such sharp authenticity and bursts of light."