rev. of Meteors in August by Melanie Rae Thonby
The coming-of-age story has become a somewhat tedious genre in recent years, owing simply, perhaps, to the sheer proliferation of them -- and attenuated further, no doubt, by Hollywood -- but Melanie Rae Thon transcends the easy traps of the form in
Meteors in August, producing a fine first novel distinguished by its lyrical resonance.
In the small, isolate town of Willis, Montana, where the Sunday service at the Lutheran church is the social event of the week, Lizzie Macon grows up in the shadow of her beautiful older sister Nina, who, to everyone's disappointment, becomes pregnant and runs away with her Native American lover. Insistent on escape, Nina cuts her face from all the family photographs, not allowing the possibility, even, for a missing-person poster, and Lizzie must contend with the resultant void, the repressive despair of her drunken, bigoted father and her lonely mother. Lizzie, in her search for redemption, is confused by her incipient sexuality and falls in for a short time with a renegade fundamentalist -- Passion and salvation seemed like the same thing, like something I'd wanted my whole life -- yet she learns eventually that the agency of deliverance is not with guilt but with forgiveness, that to look at people as they were, without fear or shame, was a kind of healing, sometimes the only thing that
The conflicts in this novel, though marked occasionally with period references to the late Sixties and early Seventies, feel timeless, elemental, and their resolutions, particularly in a climactic confrontation between mother and daughters, are generous in their dispensations of bittersweet wisdom. Narratively rich, lucidly written,
Meteors in August proves to be thoroughly convincing and satisfying. Thon's vision deserves witness.