cover image Innocent Darkness: 2a Novel

Innocent Darkness: 2a Novel

Edward R. F. Sheehan. Viking Books, $22 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84779-2

Sheehan, who has previously written fiction but is better known for such nonfiction works as The Arabs, the Israelis and Kissinger and Agony in the Garden: A Stranger in Central America , has fashioned a haunting, almost allegorical tale of politics, religion and high art. It has to do with wretchedly poor people from Central America who take flight toward possible haven in the U.S. and the appalling suffering they must endure in the hope of safely crossing the Rio Grande and disappearing into American life. Hero Adrian Northwood is an almost supernaturally rich young man who goes down to border country, determined to atone for the accidental death of his wife and child, and becomes a sort of contemporary saint, spending millions of dollars nurturing the sick and afflicted refugees, getting them out of the feral hands of the Mexican police and into ``sanctuary,'' whence the overworked, coldhearted Border Patrol cannot pluck them for return. A would-be painter, a Catholic whose wealth has bought him high Church connections, and a passionate exile from this sordid century who comforts himself in his own eventual sufferings by recalling chunks of Faust , Pascal, Mozart's letters and Schubert's chamber music, Northwood is a remarkable creation--and, strangely, never a cloying one. Although the story has mythological overtones, even hints of magic realism, the narrative grip is firm, the human horrors evoked with clear-eyed compassion, the ultimate effect cathartic. Only a few rather coy first-person authorial comments sometimes intrude on the narrative. (Mar.)