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Historical Fiction Review    

 

Evidence of Things Unseen
By Marianne Wiggins
Simon and Schuster, 2003
Hardcover, $25.00 (379 pages)
ISBN: 0-684-86969-1

 

 
 

 

The story of two generations -- Ray and Opal Foster and their son, Lightfoot, and his partner, Mary, -- the novel uses "evidence of things unseen" as a metaphor for the accidents, risks, and chances people take to form a family.  

Ray Foster, back home after serving his country in France in World War II, is enchanted with things that glow and science. Marie Curie is his heroine. Calling himself a "Phenomenologist," Ray defines his work as ".... Phenomenology. It's like doing magic tricks. Only what they are is natural science."  

"Fos" and his partner Flash, who met during the war, have set up shop in Knoxville, run a kind of traveling x-ray show. Fos loves light while Flash loves women. When Fos meets Opal during a visit to the Outer Banks, he knows she's the only woman for him. A "natural born counter," she's a bookkeeper by profession. The two make a fine team, personally and professionally.

While they want children, they're content to travel and photograph the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority. 

When Ray, Jr., (dubbed "Lightfoot" by his father because everyone should have his own name) becomes a part of their family, their lives seem complete.  When the government "asked" Fos to work at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Opal to "sell" her family farm, the family settles into the military life with ease. Fos takes photographs, Opal works for the payroll office, and Lightfoot plays with the neighborhood children when he's not at school. 

The family's lives changed in unimaginable ways in August 1945 when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. Evidence of Things Unseen is haunting, lyrical, unsettling, and luminous. 

Marianne Wiggins, who lives in Los Angeles, is the author of seven books including John Dollar and Almost Heaven. She has won a Whiting Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. 

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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