Can You See Anything Now?
James’s debut novel illustrates the gradual changes that human connection can bring to a messy world. The book opens with another of artist Margie Nethercott’s unsuccessful suicide attempts in the small New England community of Trinity. Margie is cared for by her therapist husband, who can be impatient with her inability to handle life, and is exasperated by her college-age daughter, Noel, who has gone to New York City for college and isn’t as forthright about her feelings as she once was. Events take another tragic turn when Noel invites her pierced, self-injuring roommate Pixie home for Thanksgiving; Pixie slips into an icy river and nearly dies. In the months that follow, the characters each deal with the near-tragedy by reconceiving God and rededicating themselves to family. The story reaches an awkward climax on the day that Pixie’s troubled father, Pete, arrives to conduct a town prayer before a fittingly ambiguous finale that refocuses the book on family, community, and the people of Trinity. James nicely weaves in eccentric townspeople to round out the cast—Mary Sommerfield specializes in casseroles and gossip; Etta Wallace is a woman of faith who paints tomatoes—of this touching if static portrayal of aging, depression, and the aftermath of trauma. (Oct.)