cover image All of Us Together in the End

All of Us Together in the End

Matthew Vollmer. Hub City, $16.95 (256p) ASIN B09XT6LNX4

Vollmer (This World Is Not Your Home) explores in this luminous memoir the illusion of time, the oddities of faith, and the vagaries of the heart by way of a family mystery. Shortly after his mother’s death, Vollmer received a call from his father informing him that “some weird stuff’s been happening.” So begins a braided narrative spanning the year between the 2019 and 2020 winter solstices that tracks the investigation into “blinking lights in the woods” behind Vollmer’s father’s house, Vollmer’s breakaway from the Seventh-day Adventist church, and the surreal early media coverage of the pandemic. “The longer I lived,” he writes, “the less certain I felt about any so-called ‘beliefs’ I might ever lay claim to,” as Covid spreads and he considers whether the phenomenon at his father’s home might be his mother’s spirit. In sinewy, often lyrical prose, Vollmer documents the descent into despair and doubt that leads him to seek counsel from, among others, a local Episcopal rector and a “shamanic psychotherapist” quarantining in Spain. As his father reconnects with and then marries an old flame, the lights vanish, “and though I could no longer find her physical body,” Vollmer writes, “I’d returned to a world where my mother was everywhere.” This engaging what’s-in-the-woods puzzle elegantly probes the questions that characterize deep relationships and deeper mysteries. Agent: Nathaniel Jacks, InkWell Management. (Mar.)