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LaurenBDavis

LAUREN B. DAVIS

Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Haunting and Beautiful

On the Night Plain: A Novel - J. Robert Lennon

I was snared from the opening page. Lennon's novel, set largely on a sheep farm
on the Great Plains just after World War II, is about loneliness -- its burdens
and anguish as well as its dignity and allure. It is about honor and
responsibility -- qualities which seem in some ways, rather archaic these days.
Grant Person (Lennon has chosen the name, I suspect, with Dickensian car), the
protagonist, is portrayed as a the sort of man one rarely encounters in modern
times, meaning he is comfortable with silence, with vast unpeople spaces, and
with hardship. He neither explains nor analyses himself; the reader gets the
impression that, were he to be exposed to the sort of fame-seeking,
self-revealing obsessions of the present day, he would shake his head in
distaste, chuckle, and head for the hills. For Grant Person, what you do, how
you shoulder your life and do the next-right-thing is the measure of your
character.

This may be a quiet novel, but nonetheless, there is enough
tension and desire to keep this reader up late at night. There is family
intrigue, and passion galore. In fact, the plot is nearly Shakespearean --
betrayal and assumed identities and ghosts and the heartbreaking rivalry between
brothers.

The prose is spare -- there is something of Cormac McCarthy
here, not only in the bare-bones, although poetic, language, but also in the
depiction of a lost world. However, whereas McCarthy's work is often pessimistic
and bloody, Lennon's novel, while often bleak, is imbued with a kind of
cleanliness and calm. In this, and the profound compassion on every page, I am
reminded of Kent Haruf's "Plainsong" and "Eventide," books I admire
enormously.

Lennon is able to cram so much into this novel, and it is so
thick with symbolism and emotion, it's surprising to realize it's only 246 pages
long. Bravo.