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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Three Junes

If you'd asked me in late February - right after The Overstory kicked my ass - how soon I'd be ready to publish a post recommending another novel, I would have guessed a month or more. But Three Junes (2002) by Julia Glass, though more traditional and straightforward than The Overstory, is also worth your precious time. Both books, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Winners respectively, make me yearn to be acquainted with the folks in the juries that make those choices. It's been a long time since a novel that earned one of those accolades has disappointed me.

Three Junes explores the inexhaustible terrain of family dynamics at the same time it examines the illusory nature of love. Using a classic three act structure spread out over a decade, the one nod at modernity is the way the narration starts in third person, then switches to first before finishing back in third. The prose shimmers from start -  " …clouds… each one as benign as a bridal veil" (p.5) to finish  - "The city comes into view, near and distant, haughty as Oz" (p. 350 of 353). The insights are abundant, sharp and wise - " … the acute self-consciousness we all feel, regardless of age or station in life, when anyone meets our parents."

And, optimist that I try to be, Glass's final sentence - with appropriate caveats given some of the sadness earlier in the novel - rang true for me: "Here we are - despite the delays, the confusions, and the shadows en route - at last, or for the moment, where we always intended to be."  

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