Brian Hart,Bloomsbury, January 2010, $25.00 Hardcover, 272pp, 9781608190140
Book Description from the Jacket Cover
Bandy Dorner, home from Vietnam, awakes with his car mired in a canal, his cabin reduced to ashes, and his pregnant wife preparing to leave town with her lover. Within moments, a cop lies bleeding in the road. Eighteen years later, Bandy's son -- a stranger bearing his name -- returns to the town, where the memory of his father's crime still hangs thick. When an accident brings the family -- paroled father, widowed mother, injured son -- back together, the three must confront their past, and struggle against their fate. Like a traditional Greek tragedy, suffused with the mud, ice, and rock of the raw Idaho landscape, Then Came the Evening is tautly plotted and emotionally complex -- a stunning debut.
Bandy Dorner emerges from his wrecked car after being roused awake by two policemen. Searching for focus in a dazed stupor, what happens next will send him away to jail for almost twenty years. His wife Iona, having fled with her lover Bill has no interest in Bandy, and his life in prison is hellish. He has not heard from Iona and he has asked his parents not to visit. Then in 1990 as he is near the end of his time served he receives a letter from Iona, with a startling confession that he has an eighteen year old son, Tracy. Naturally, Tracy wants to meet his father, and they meet while he is in prison. It is during this time that Tracy finds out about his father’s old cabin and decides to live there as he waits for his father’s return. When Tracy arrives at the house it is a gutted run down shell. The entire contents, everything including plumbing, ripped and carried away. After he has a serious accident while renovating the cabin, Iona runs to her son with a parental panic of foreboding deep in her gut.
When Bandy is released, the three live together, each having endured much pain and suffering already. They begin to sort out their feelings and whether they will ever live as a family. Their future and potential for forgiveness and hope for unity is what makes this story so good. I don’t think I would want to ever meet Bandy Dorner and I’m not sure I understand Iona at all. Tracy tries to strike a balance as he wants a relationship with both parents.
Then Came the Evening is a sadly pathetic and sobering story of a broken family. Brian Hart is a talented writer, a first time novelist who grabs the reader from the first chapter. His writing describes each scene with careful attention to details using poetic prose providing visual clarity.
Some quotes from Then Came the Evening.....
“The moon was high and bright, the color of milk in a blue glass; three days from being full, it was cleaved on one side. He blinked several times at the thin halos surrounding the moon but they remained. They were an illusion: a snowball dropped in black water, ripples spreading from it. The house was dark and looked abandoned. The snow was blue on the road. The cold and the silence were woven together and stretched so tightly that there were creaking sounds in the air, nautical sounds of binding rope. ....The night air washed over him and he was not sad or conscious of his body and its weight: He was free.” (Hart, 126)
“Iona turned and watched the final dance of the fall-time, tree-filtered sun cross the untreated floorboards. The shadow of the ladder to the sleeping loft made bars on the floor, a skewed rail track on the wall. Then the sun went and in an instant the room felt cold.” (Hart, 16)
This is a serious and dismal story yet its characters’ struggles and dreams carry a familiar message of hope. It exposes a fragile family with difficult choices and unstoppable consequences. I embrace Then Came the Evening:an unforgettable read.
Note: Then Came the Evening is now available in paperback too.
Disclosure: The copy of this book was a gift from the publisher, Bloomsbury/USA. This review represents my candid opinion without influence or monetary compensation.
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