Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Very occasionally, a book you’ve never heard of and wouldn’t expect to like by an author you don’t know will make its way into your hands and remind you why you read books in the first place. For me, Lark and Termite was that book. Jayne Anne Phillips’s subtle, looping novel combines the story of Leavitt, an American soldier mortally wounded by friendly fire deep in enemy territory during the Korean War, with that of his orphaned son Termite, a sufferer of severe mental and physical disabilities nurtured by his half-sister Lark and the few sympathetic members of their small-town community. Flitting through the book, seen only from a distance, is Lola, the biological mother of both Lark and Termite, whose abandonment of her two children and of the town of her birth casts a long, complicated shadow through the characters’ lives. Once the stage is set and the characters introduced, the novel’s plot is simple and unadorned. Viewed through the questioning gaze of Lark and the lyrical, kaleidoscopic perspective of Termite, though, even the simplest childhood memory takes on beautiful, subtle shades of meaning. There aren’t many books that I plan to read and reread and reread, but this is one of them.
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