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"Then Came the Evening" by Brian Hart

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How is it that so many debut novels are released that all have well-paced plot development, weighty themes, and such deep and fully realized characters? "Then Came the Evening" by Brian Hart represents yet another impressive debut effort in my list. I found "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl, and the stunning "In the Fall" by Jeffrey Lent in particular, to be exceptional. Also "The Monsters of Templeton" by Lauren Groff, introduced me to another new author worth following.

In "Then Came the Evening" Mr. Hart unfolds the story of the Dorners, a splintered Idaho family that reunites when the son comes of age and decides to rebuild and claim the abandoned homestead. His father has been incarcerated and does not even know of his existence until a short time before he sees him in prison on his way to the family land in Idaho. The son, Tracy, seriously injures himself while laboring on the house, and his mother, Iona, rushes to him from Spokane, while at the same time trying to detoxify herself. His father Bandy, very ill, is released from prison, and all three embark on the halting, winding path of repair and redemption at the family ranch. The fits and starts of this three-sided relationship is one of the main charms here. Mr. Hart shows a sophistication and a very humane touch while presenting this painful progress, where a slim hope begins to emerge. Fate intervenes when Bandy is extorted into doing the bidding of a so-called friend from prison, and our shaky hopes for his family begin to unravel.

The family farm to which these three damaged souls repair offers hope for themselves as individuals and as a group. As young Tracy begins to work on it, he invests his sweat and hopes and a good portion of his bodily health to this chance, this ideal. He has more energy for the task of redemption than either of his parents. They learn a bit from him, which is good as far as it goes, but it turns out Iona has a secret in the past that bears on the present, and finally overwhelms everything they are trying to build. The son benefits from the destructive but resigned impulses of his parents - he works hard and his future promises much more - quite a bit more than his parents ever hoped for.

Brian Hart has produced a debut work of fiction that promises an exceptional career. His characters come fully alive, his plot is sophisticated and seems inevitable (a very good characteristic in a plot), and he treats his family and other characters with a plain-spoken dignity, and an unblinking honesty. I found this piece to be a compulsive page-turner - I had not read a novel in a single day in some years. This piece rises above the run-of-the-mill with its set-piece morality and the ineluctable destiny toward which personalities and events take us. I recommend this book in no uncertain terms, and look forward to recommending future efforts from this impressive new author.
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