From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. From Phillip's (Motherkind; Shelter) comes a long-awaited and wonderful coming-of-age tale of grief and survival. The story straddles a parallel six-day period in July, one in 1959—during which 17-year-old Lark; her brother, Termite, who cant talk; and their aunt and caretaker, Nonie, are struggling to balance hope and despair in smalltown West Virginia—and nine years earlier, when Termites father, Robert Leavitt, serves a tour in Korea. Lark, living with her aunt without knowing who her father is or why her mother gave her up, was nine years old when baby Termite landed on their doorstep. Nonie works long hours at a local restaurant to support the hodgepodge family, leaving Lark to take over mothering duties, but as Lark finishes secretarial school and realizes how limited the options are for her and Termite, forces of nature and odd individuals shed light on mysteries of the past and lend a hand in steering the next course of action. Through Robert and Nonie's stories and by exposing the innermost thoughts of each character, Phillips creates a wrenching portrait of devotion while keeping the suspense at a palpitating level. (Jan.)
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This poetic novel alternates between the last hours of Robert Leavitt, a corporal in the U.S. Army, pinned down in a tunnel in South Korea, in 1950, and the story of his disabled son, Termite, who, nine years later, is living with his half sister, Lark, and their aunt in West Virginia. Lark knows little of her mother and even less of her father, and pours herself into nurturing Termite, whose stunted body and lack of language has Social Services perpetually threatening to take him away. The appearance of a sympathetic social worker marks the beginning of a great fracture in their lives, which culminates in a flood that reveals the past and makes way for a new future. Phillips gives each scene an evocative, often lyrical description, but the mystical elements of the story and the improbable ending undermine an otherwise moving exploration of familial love.
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