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"Evidence of Things Unseen" by Marianne Wiggins

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"Evidence of Things Unseen" is the remarkably-told story of Ray Foster ("Fos") and his wife, Opal. Their story spans World War I, in which Ray is a combatant, and continues, portraying his interest in the science of flashing, of bright things, taking us through World War II, and some years beyond. He meets Opal (after the Great War, I believe) in the coastal plains of North Carolina, and the half-dozen pages describing this encounter, so alive with the force of attraction and possibility, are worth the price of admission all by themselves. A true delight in storytelling.
This is a book about the scientific method and its antithesis, the tribal knowledge of emotion. Fos and Opal find wonder in the same thing, but look in opposite directions for it: each autumn they trek from Knoxville to Kitty Hawk to see if there is more undersea bioluminescence during the full moon and the Perseid meteor shower. Here we see Fos and Opal's similarity in opposites: Fos's light comes in outer space, in discrete bits, spectacular, disposable. Opal looks underwater for the more solid, unified, and durable earthbound shining.

Opal and Fos, inseparable, are recruited together to work in Oak Ridge, and they only find out too late that they have been working on the ultimate bomb. Its detonation in anger over Hiroshima leads the same day to Opal and Ray Foster's deaths, and makes a ward of the state out of Ray Jr., called "Lightfoot."

The scientific method runs through the book, but the idea, which Ray and Opal share, that science is beneficent, is dashed all to hell. Flash, Ray's partner (!) is incarcerated through most of the book, but ultimately guides Lightfoot to the West Coast to discover love in the person of a lovely young artist. She echoes the older couple - she paints with a mixture of fish blood that glows in the dark, but is invisible in daylight.

"Evidence of Things Unseen" will break your heart several times, in several ways. But you will finish uplifted, and full of wonder at the perceptions, lessons, and sheer artistry of Ms. Wiggins. Superbly done!
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