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Lark and Termite Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 6, 2009


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375401954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375401954
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

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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Customer Reviews

It is very profound, the way the author uses imagery and the thought process.
Jeanne Anderson
Writing a literary novel is very difficult and Lark and Termite is a good example of using a technique effectively.
Mr. August
The ending was a bit abrupt after a rather slow start with limited plot but was satisfying nonetheless.
Librum

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Chris Owens on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In a time when fiction seems to be lost amid memoirs and non-fiction, and chick-lit, this is a refreshing read. Crisp, magical, satisfyingly psychological - this novel spans great distances and time periods to effectively reveal a deeper message. The prose is rich and beautiful, but doesn't outshine the wonderful characters. Set in West Virginia and Korea, Lark and Termite is full of rich symbolism, character, and most of all - story. Surely, Lark and Termite is for the savvy reader - although this isn't to say this novel shouldn't be taken to the beach, or on a plane, and read leisurely (as I did). This is a well paced read with big pay-off, and will be sure to please those seeking a great literary escape. Phillips captures another time and place, and does so with conviction. I'd imagine this will be one of the best offerings of the year and will be up for some major awards. Five stars, easily.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By S. Michael Bowen on January 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Three-quarters of the way through Jayne Anne Phillips' poetic novel, I acknowledged the beauty of her prose but wondered if there'd be a payoff. An hour or so later, *Lark and Termite* had become a page-turner that reduced me to tears.
Like *Machine Dreams,* the novel of a quarter-century ago that made Phillips a literary sensation, *Lark and Termite* tells about a family from the inside, from multiple perspectives.
There's the husband, a soldier implicated in the massacre at No Gun Ri, the Korean War's precursor to Vietnam's My Lai; his wife, an older woman who was attracted to how well Bobby Leavitt blew his trumpet in smoky jazz clubs; her sister, slaving as a waitress in a small-town diner and caring for the two title characters.
Lark -- 17, self-reliant, sexually awakening -- is typing her way through secretarial school with a determined look on her face. She's completely devoted to her 9-year-old brother. Termite is "a boy in a deep wagon, eyes hard to the side and head tilted, fingers up and moving ... [who] hums in a quiet tonal code that stops and starts." He's "in himself," Lark says, "like a termite's in a wall."
For Termite was born with hydrocephalus, and small-town Appalachia in 1959 wasn't especially well equipped to serve a special-needs child (though Phillips, typically, turns even bureaucracy into magic, transforming a social services worker into an otherworldly symbol).
By crafting parallels between events at two railroad tunnels separated by nine years and geography (one in Korea, one in West Virginia), Phillips' novel suggests unexplained glimmers of a spiritual world hovering above our own. But she roots her mysticism in reality, as in this description of what it's like to drift toward death: "Abruptly, a shutter falls. Sounds diminish and recede.
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Format: Hardcover
Thirty years along in a literary career with a modest-sized body of work to her credit, it's fair to ask whether Jayne Anne Phillips has fully realized the potential displayed in her dazzling 1979 debut short story collection, BLACK TICKETS. With the publication of her latest novel, her first in nine years, there is a good chance she will silence any doubters and will leave all of us hungering for more of her distinctive voice.

LARK AND TERMITE is a family drama set in the 1950s in an unlikely pairing of locations --- a dying West Virginia town and a battlefield in the early days of the Korean War. The novel is built upon four interconnected points of view: 17-year-old Lark, attending secretarial school in the town of Winfield and sensing the pull of the wider world; her disabled "minimally hydrocephalic" nine-year-old brother Termite, whose stream of consciousness pours onto the page in a voiceless swirl of images and sounds; their Aunt Nonie, who has been left to care for both children after they're deposited with her by her younger sister, Lola, a sometimes lounge singer who is irresistibly attractive to men and disastrously incapable of dealing with the consequences of that fact; and Corporal Robert Leavitt, Termite's father, a jazz musician and young soldier from Philadelphia whose platoon accompanies South Korean villagers fleeing the North Korean onslaught.

Basing the grimly realistic Korean segments of the novel on accounts of the massacre of South Korean civilians by American troops at No Gun Ri, Phillips movingly describes the last days of Leavitt, mortally wounded by friendly fire and pinned down in an abandoned railroad tunnel, where he has sought refuge to escape strafing from North Korean aircraft.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By theo on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
once in a decade a work comes along that reminds us why, no matter what crap economy or worldwide chaos may be in full force, we need art to keep us going. this is a novel that inspires ones day like a gust of crisp winter air or the murmur of beautiful music--i really cannot explain how reading this book has filled me with a sense of wonder and thrill. you have to experience it for yourself. the GLOWING ny times review doesn't even do it justice. bless you Jayne Anne Phillips! Get this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on February 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Lark and Termite is a beautiful, graceful, lyrical read. Jayne Anne Phillips has given us a delicious gift in this novel of Lark and Termite, two half siblings living in West Virginia in the late 1950s. The novel takes place over a few days in their lives, as a devastating rain storm is about to hit their small town. Lark is a teenager who takes care of her younger brother Termite was born with hydrocephalus and cannot walk or talk. Their story is interspersed with the story of Termite's father, Robert Leavitt, an American soldier caught up in the early days of the Korean conflict. All of the characters in this novel are trapped somehow, Leavitt is trapped in Korea, Lark is trapped in the small West Virginia town, trapped by her life and by the storm and Termite is trapped in his own mind. Phillips takes us into all of their minds, convincingly. Lark and Termite is such a compelling read, but be warned the story starts slowly, just like the storm, and builds to a satisfying conclusion. This novel is not a quick or a light read at all. Leave yourself time to savor the language. Phillips is at her best here, and the prose is at times reminiscent of Faulkner and Joyce and those who dare to read this novel will be rewarded with a beautiful and lyrical story.
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