And the Dark Sacred Night by Julia Glass
If you’ve never read a Julia Glass novel (2002 National Book Award winner that she is, chances are slim, I suppose), just don’t until after you’ve finished this one. If you have, forget you ever did. Only after the final Dark Sacred page (or last track; if you choose to go aural, narrator Mark Deakins hits just the right measured notes), should you allow your memory the freedom to roam through other Glass-y territory. And then you can enjoy that congratulatory, knowing nod.
I’m giving you fair warning here because I mistakenly read a description (not even a review, egads!) that refers to a previous novel, which proved to be such an obnoxious spoiler barely a few chapters in. Usually, I adore overlapping characters in essentially unrelated novels by the same author, but definitely not stumbling on them in this way! So much for allowing for a reader’s own discovery.
Hugely annoyed rant aside, Glass’s newest is much more than the ‘big reveal’ (even if I’m still feeling rather robbed), so do keep reading … because you’re going to want to know Kit Noonan better and better as he finally begins to know himself in a case of better-late-than-never.
What Kit might describe as inertia since not getting professorily tenured, his wife recognizes as something debilitating about to implode. She insists his misery is more than just career-related, that his not knowing who he really is is at the core of his midlife crisis: for 40-something years, Kit’s mother Daphne has refused to divulge any information about his birthfather, except to insist that he’s dead.
That much proves true, but Kit understandably wants more. With his mother adamantly silent, Kit travels solo to the small ski town where he spent his most formative years, where his stepfather Jasper still lives. Daphne married Jasper when Kit was 9, and then left them both for another marriage. Jasper, too, knows little about Kit’s father, but he manages to remember the one small detail that leads Kit to an extended family he never knew he had. And so Kit begins to construct the story of a dead man, a father he will never meet, a father who never was.
Glass weaves in and out of individual lives over multiple decades, seamlessly joining narratives with both joy and tragedy. Expectations never met, parenthood chosen and denied, the undeniable power of lost love, relationships that work, relationships that don’t … and with life’s greatest revelations, the long-awaited recognition of the obvious. Once again, Glass unspools another multi-layered, complex family saga with graceful ease, allowing just enough time in between chapters to chuckle, wince, sigh, roll an occasional eyeball, and cry. Not quite as elegant as Three Junes but a vast improvement over The Whole World Over, Sacred Night proves to be a familiar, reassuring, welcome read.