Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Enduring

Welcome to Stay More, Arkansas and the magical world of Latha Bourne, one of the most singularly interesting characters in all of American fiction. Donald Harington's Enduring (Toby Press, 2009) is a beautiful, expansive novel and perhaps one of the most engrossing and fascinating works I have ever read. It follows the life of Latha Bourne, her entire life so far, from cradle to the age of something past 100.

Like all of Harington's books, there is no need to read them in any kind of order or sequence as Mr. Harington writes as a storyteller first, and he does it so artfully that every novel exists as its own creation--I myself have read his novels in different orders and have been rewarded in my own experience. There is no earthly way a reader will get lost in this book, other than in its enchantment and delicious plot. In fact this book itself may be a good place to start if it's your first Harington novel. If you read it you'll see why.

Latha Bourne is one of the most beautiful heroines in all of literature, and she is also one of the most independent and enduring. I loved learning about her family, her troubles, her "exile" and sojourn, and triumphant return to Stay More. Along the way, we meet and admire, perhaps fall in love with, a large cast of major and minor players (Every Dill, Doc Swain, the Duckworths, the Whitters, Dawny, Dan, Sharon, Larry, the Ingledews and Chisms and a few other surprises), all of whom--almost by magic--leave an indelible mark on the mind of the reader, the only place where in fact they exist. The settings vary from Stay More, Jasper, Little Rock, and Tennessee. I can't give away much more because I risk spoiling so many beautiful surprises that are best encountered in your reading.

The book is told as a wonderful story, as if around a campfire or an old fashioned gathering, and I couldn't help myself but want to visit this place sometime, to see if I could sit with Latha on her front porch, or near the dogtrot, and have a glass of lemonade and learn about the history of her mythical, inviting, beckoning hamlet.

Mr. Harington is well-known for his playful wordplay and musical language, and his impeccable comedic timing--all of which are present here. But he is not usually given his due as the master of suspense and plot he is... ENDURING is a testament to those talents. I turned the final page with a great deal of satisfaction and also without a clue where the hours went, the hours I spent happily traveling through Latha Bourne's remarkable life.