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Lark and Termite (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – January 12, 2010
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From The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Phillips exudes a style with words that would drop English instructors to their knees. She is queen of alliteration. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Annie Hendrix
Compelling story that requires attention. The juxtaposition of war with a daily life of struggle presents parallel experiences and insights.Published on May 1, 2014 by Mary L. Otto
Phillips brings the characters alive with touching portrayals of their lives and foibles. The plot unfolds with bursts of connection and imagery. Read morePublished on March 16, 2014 by Gail K Hill
This a story that is so real, touching and full! You will laugh, cry, conspire with and root for each character. We'll done and worth the read!Published on January 23, 2014 by Phillipsclan
I found "Lark and Termite" to be both challenging and rewarding, but the book's strengths -- its lyrical beauty and a plot that became very engaging by the last third -- couldn't... Read morePublished on May 16, 2013 by Kate B.
Jayne Anne Phillips has crafted a beautiful story about the complications of family units and the friends and neighbors who help them hold together with their own complicated... Read morePublished on May 11, 2013 by Kate
This is the worest book I've ever read! You keep waiting for it to end and there is no ending.Published on March 12, 2013 by Amazon Customer