cover image The Evening Road

The Evening Road

Laird Hunt. Little, Brown, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-39128-3

At once dreamily timeless and fitting for the current national moment, Hunt’s (Neverhome) hypnotic latest takes place on one evening in August 1920, when two equally strong—and scarred—women cross paths in Indiana. Ottie Lee Henshaw is at work when her boss reports that townspeople in nearby Marvel are planning to lynch several black youths accused of crimes against whites. Elated, he gathers Ottie Lee and her husband, Dale, and the three (all of whom are white) set off for the “rope party.” Their trip is constantly interrupted—by the lure of a catfish supper, a car accident that leaves them walking, and a chance ride that delivers them to a Quaker prayer vigil instead of the lynching—as Ottie Lee’s vibrant facade slowly cracks to reveal her deep fears. Meanwhile, black teenager Calla Destry goes to the river near Marvel to meet her ambitious white lover who calls himself Leander. When he doesn’t show, she takes her foster father’s car and rides off to escape Marvel’s angry mob and find Leander for an urgent conversation. As her mind shifts between past and present, real and imaginary, Calla’s journey reveals the secrets she hides. Though the novel’s meandering odysseys sometimes feel frustrating, Hunt’s striking prose and visionary imagery capture America’s community bonds, violent prejudices, falling darkness, and searing light. (Feb.)