cover image A Green and Ancient Light

A Green and Ancient Light

Frederic S. Durbin. S&S/Saga, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4814-4222-0

Durbin (Dragonfly) returns to adult fiction with this quiet, charming tale of a young boy in a deliberately obscured setting; most of the characters are left nameless, and all the reader knows is that this is a time of war. Sent to spend the summer with a grandmother he’s never met, the boy finds more of an adventure than he could have expected. One of his grandmother’s mysterious old friends arrives in the night to ask for their help rescuing an enemy soldier whose plane was shot down nearby. The effort to hide the soldier leads them to a ruined garden in the woods that’s filled with statues of monsters. The boy’s wonder and astonishment suffuses the narrative as he and the others work to solve the puzzle presented by the garden. The prose is frequently as beautiful as the images it evokes: “They had forgotten all about me, but I didn’t mind. It was good to hear them talking this way, their voices warm and soft and worn as old leather.” Durbin skillfully ties together the shared quest of three generations even as one of them, the boy’s father, is rendered absent by the war. This gentle, engaging, and very personal coming-of-age story is mythic in its universality. (June)