cover image Lost, Almost

Lost, Almost

Amy P. Knight. Engine (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-938126-83-3

Through spare and precise language, Knight’s debut novel follows three generations of the Brooks family as they are both nurtured and impeded by their physicist patriarch. While his mother cries for the violence inflicted by the atomic bomb that ends the war in 1945, 14-year-old Adam marvels that the atom has at last been split, his single-minded brilliance already emerging. The narrative jumps back and forth through time, following the scientific curiosity that runs through Adam’s bloodline, including to his son and granddaughter. His son, Curt, works in his father’s lab in Los Alamos, and his granddaughter, Katie, also becomes a physicist. While the family’s work provides a powerful connection between them, their intensity sometimes drives wedges between them, as when Adam’s wife hides Curt’s Caltech acceptance letter, wishing her son could have a chance at a future other than as a carbon copy of his father. Such turns are rendered with empathic insight; Knight treats the characters fairly, even when they are not treating each other fairly. Adam’s work developing the second generation of nuclear weapons comes back to haunt him in an unexpected way after 56 years at Los Alamos, bringing about the question at the center of the novel: what makes a life worthwhile? Knight avoids easy conclusions and balances this intergenerational story with levity, honesty, and just the right measure of heartbreak. (Nov.)