cover image Tooth of the Covenant

Tooth of the Covenant

Norman Lock. Bellevue Literary, $16.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-942658-83-2

Lock (American Follies) probes familial legacy, storytelling, and the tension between individuals and their eras in the cogent, metafictional eighth installment of his American Novel series. In 1851, Nathaniel Hawthorne sits in his Massachusetts farmhouse blaming his great-great-grandfather John Hathorne, a Salem witch trials magistrate who refused to repent his condemnations, for his own lifelong shame and melancholy. In Hawthorne’s eponymous manuscript, which makes up the bulk of Lock’s work, Hawthorne dispatches Isaac Page, a fictional alter ego, to foil and wreak vengeance on Hathorne and enact a consoling literary fantasy. Isaac uses a mysterious pair of John Hathorne’s spectacles to travel back to 1692 Salem. There, distracted from his mission by eye pain and dreams of Satanic rites, Isaac gradually transforms from an enlightened rationalist to a cruel, intemperate puritan. Even before he impulsively dons the spectacles and sees the world precisely as his infamous forebear did, Page grows more like Hathorne than Hawthorne. The novel’s somber exploration of American cruelty and religious intolerance is balanced by its nimble prose, sly wit, and engaging glimpses of a literary figure. Lock’s latest ambitious look at America’s history will delight fans of the series and earn new converts. (July)