My debut novel was just released, yet I’m already thinking about when it will slide into my publisher’s backlist. Still, I’m thrilled whenever I discover a previously published novel that I missed the first time around. It’s like finding a hidden present under the tree skirt after all the other presents have been opened at Christmas. Such a novel is Lucy Jane Bledsoe’s this wild silence. I don’t know what I was doing in 2003, the year it was published. Clearly, I wasn’t paying attention.
From the first lines of this wild silence, I was grabbed:
“Scanning the horizon for Timothy is almost an instinct with me. I do it every time I’m in the wilderness. It has never felt absurd, the idea that a little boy—and I always picture him still five years old—might come loping over the horizon and back into our lives. Never mind that by now he would be thirty-five and not a little boy at all.”
In three sentences we know so much: a boy was lost thirty years ago, the narrator hasn’t gotten over it, and she still holds out hope that she’ll find him again. We also sense immediately an undercurrent of guilt, for what we don’t know yet. After all, it’s only the first paragraph.
The story seems simple: two sisters and three other people venture into the wildness during a snowy camping weekend. Christine, the narrator, is a workaholic doctor in San Francisco. Her sister, Liz, is one of those women you see in yogurt commercials who have wrestled life into a calm, predictable state.
But simple it is not. As you read on, you realize that the sisters and the other three have more secrets between them than a Masonic Temple. It’s a story containing several surprises, circling around and through each secret until everything is revealed.
Along with these secrets, Bledsoe’s characters reel you in. Christine can’t seem to pick the right woman for a relationship, discarding Robin, who her sister thought “was a gem.” Christine, though, knows that Robin’s veneer of perfection is easily scraped away. “You’re right, Robin is a gem. She also can’t admit she’s wrong, ever. And at home she is far from that bubbly cheerful woman you know.” Who among us hasn’t befriended or loved someone who seems to have the very qualities we revere and yet later on we find has everything but? Bledsoe shows us what’s behind the curtain of us, undressing with deft suspense our true natures.
In my first novel, I was interested in that psychological unveiling when characters are jettisoned from areas of comfort as Bledsoe’s characters are. As Henry James said, “What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?”
My bookshelves will always have a mix between debut authors and the tried and true. I’m thrilled that Ms. Bledsoe not only has other books I’ve yet to read, but is also releasing a new novel, The Evolution of Love, this May. For me, it’s the Christmas that keeps on giving.
Randi Triant’s debut novel The Treehouse was released by Sapphire Books Publishing in March 2018. After ten years as a film producer and writer, she received her MFA in writing and literature from Bennington College. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in literary journals and magazines, and she’s taught writing at Emerson College and Boston College.
Randi Triant website: https://randitriant.com
Sapphire Books Publishing: http://www.sapphirebooks.com