In the Fall
In the Fall
By Jeffrey Lent
Vintage, Paperback, 9780375707452, 528pp.
Publication Date: July 10, 2001
Compared by critics to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, Jeffrey Lent’s In the Fall is the most stunning debut to come along in years. Ambitious in scope and passionately executed, this epic novel is the rarest of things: a truly moving, emotionally honest, and intellectually satisfying American family.
In the twilight of the Civil War, Leah, an escaped slave, discovers Norman Pelham, a wounded soldier who lies dying in a battlefield outside Richmond. After she nurses him back to health, Norman brings her to his family farm in Vermont as his wife, and they begin a family. Now the mother of three, and however begrudgingly, accepted in the community, Leah travels back to the South of her birth and returns with a secret that threatens to destroy what she and Norman had created. Her son Jamie, passing for white, escapes his legacy and enters a world of petty bootlegging, achieving a kind of respectability in the Prohibition era, but also suffering wrenching losses. At the eve of the Great Depression his son, Foster, retraces the path taken by his grandmother and finally confronts the secret exposed by an unknown white uncle, the legacy of slavery, and the painful intricacies of race.
“There are passages that are written so beautifully that they take your breath away. A moving tale of three generations in an American family, their lives shaped by a secret buried in the last days of slavery.”–USA Today
“You can hear echoes of Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy in the prose. But the presiding geniuses of this dark novel’s painterly, poetic scenes are Robert Frost and the artist Winslow Homer…flint-eyed Yankees who never saw a paradise that didn’t have a snake.”–Newsweek
“Finely observed and deeply felt. In the Fall is an absorbing novel and an auspicious debut.”–San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
“A stunning success…builds like a thunderstorm over the horizon.”–The Christian Science Monitor
“Contains wisdom, gravity, beauty, horror and grace. I’ve never read a novel where race mattered so little and so much at the same time. It is a tribute to Lent’s skill and insight that he negotiates this shifting ground with such facility, delivering a denouement.”– Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Lent takes the most calamitous period in American history and breathes sharp, vivid breath into it.”–The Baltimore Sun
“A majestic, vital, book. In the Fall seems absolutely true.”–The New York Times Book Review
“Lent is impressive in his storytelling…eloquent and articulate.”–Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“A book that will teach you about love, about death, about human nature and the stench of evil.”–The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“In the Fall heralds the emergence of a fully formed writer, seemingly from nowhere.”–San Jose Mercury News