cover image Night Came with Many Stars

Night Came with Many Stars

Simon Van Booy. Godine, $25.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-56792-703-0

Van Booy (The Sadness of Beautiful Things) follows two generations of a rural Kentucky family across nearly a century in his fractured, melancholic latest. In 1933, drunk widower Clay wagers and loses his 13-year-old daughter, Carol, in a poker game. She moves in with Travis Curt to serve as domestic help, and he rapes and impregnates her. Carol runs away and finds refuge with Bessie, a Black woman who performs illegal abortions. Over the next decade, Carol, Bessie, and housekeeper Martha raise Carol’s developmentally disabled son, Rusty, and eventually Carol and Rusty move out, and Carol finds work as a housekeeper for a former patient of Bessie’s. Van Booy intercuts Carol’s story with that of her grandson Samuel, starting in 1986 when, at age 13, one of Samuel’s eyes is permanently damaged while playing with a friend. Later, after a bad first semester of college, Samuel drops out and starts drinking heavily. He drifts through his adult life, winning a large poker tournament and dating a waitress until he’s ready to settle down. The alternating viewpoints and episodic narration sometimes come at the expense of emotional depth and clarity of purpose. Themes of resilience and tragedy come through, though readers will be left wondering about some of the author’s choices. Agent: Susanna Lea, Susanna Lea Assoc. (June)