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Evidence of Things Unseen

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,247 ratings  ·  405 reviews
This poetic novel, by the acclaimed author of John Dollar, describes America at the brink of the Atomic Age. In the years between the two world wars, the future held more promise than peril, but there was evidence of things unseen that would transfigure our unquestioned trust in a safe future.

Fos has returned to Tennessee from the trenches of France. Intrigued with electr
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 2nd 2004 by Simon Schuster (first published 2003)
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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,247 ratings  ·  405 reviews

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Oct 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
The first thing I noticed in this book was Wiggen’s use of poetic language. Beautiful. But in the beginning of the book at least, it was too much for me. Like too many plums in the pudding, too much sauce on the pasta. Tasty gems need a matrix to shine against. When it’s all chocolate chips and no cookie it can become cloying. The writing, lovely as it was, slowed me down because it kept bringing attention to itself. I love gorgeous writing, but when I’m reading a novel I don’t want to keep stop ...more
I’ve got to hand it to Goodreads. I never would have even heard of this book if it weren’t for the reading friends I’ve made there. And that would have been a shame, because Evidence of Things Unseen is going on my list of all-time favorite books and likely the best book I’ve read this year.

The book opens with Fos (nicknamed for Ray Foster), a World War I vet, home from the trenches, with a newfound appreciation for science and technology. He meets Opal on a trip to see the Perseid meteor shower
Jul 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
In this world where bombs are dropped to end a war; where people living in clean, new, identical houses and whose sons spend dreamy summer evenings in tents in the back, build the atomic bomb and cheer when it explodes because it means more money for them and their town, how can you believe in love or other wonderful unseen things? Flash, Opal, Fos and Lighfoot are all searching for clues about the truth about who they are and what they want in life and what is real and good while, just like the ...more
I’m not the kind of person to gush. I believe that the 80-20 ratio of great to mediocre applies to all things, including books. So when I do gush, I mean it. And I’m gushing.

Evidence of Things Unseen covers the range of historical events from one great war to the next through the lives of Ray and Opal. More than an examination of America during the interwar years, this is a novel about death, love, and, above all, the search for a meaning to illuminate our lives. Wiggins's writing is luminous,
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2013
My distaste for this book can be understood by a sentence very early on in this novel:
"Blinking in the the rain he saw her bones smooth as horn beneath the fabric of her dress where it clung flat as oil on water to her form, he saw the flat spades of her scapulae and her ropy spine rising from the meager compass of her unspanned hips toward the frail width of her slender shoulders."

Not only do we have a string of similes with nothing in common thrown together like a beginning writer in order to
Angie Palau
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I thought this book was spectacularly well-written, with gorgeous language and very clever use of mathematical and scientific language to create romantic descriptions. There were several very obvious "themes" woven throughout, which I found enjoyable, but I acknowledge that other reviews thought they were overdone or contrived. I loved them and found the use of "Light" and "Radiance" throughout to be very interesting. I also thought hanging elements of the story on a "Moby Dick" frame was cool ( ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a touching story of the tender love between Fos and Opal. Fos is a man who has always been fascinated by things that glow...falling stars in the night sky; bioluminescence in the dark sea.

He accidentally finds Opal when his truck breaks down while he is in NC to see the meteor showers. Opal is quite the repairman so she has him on the road again quickly...and she's with him.

The author, Marianne Wiggins, deserves a Pulitzer Prize for this novel. It is a riveting story of America before an
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful book. I read it as slowly as I possibly could so as to savor it.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
This book did not pass my "40 page" rule that I should really be into it after 40 pages. However, I was reading it for a face-to-face book club and was determined to finish. The further I got into it, the more I liked it. By the time I reached the last third of the book, I was reading it avidly. This book brings up many issues for thought and discussion. It has several themes running through it such as the theme of light. I appreciated the author's clever ways of putting things. I would agree th ...more
May 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
a few weeks later and i still find myself thinking about this one. wiggins is just a beautiful writer. the paperback's blurb boasts about what an epic love story it is--which is certainly true--but i found it such an oddly limiting piece of praise to highlight because this book is so much more. science and poetry and history are woven together in kind of magical ways to make up this story that's so true it just feels like life. i think this passage says it best:

"Life doesn't progress the way a s
Whitney Archibald
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Whitney by: Emma
This ranks right up there with Crossing to Safety as one of the best novels about marriage. The quirky yet believable main characters were so curious, kind, and tragic. A very unique and satisfying story. I didn't even mind all of the unbelievable coincidences in the end, because it was so well crafted. Plus, the longer I live, the longer I realize that bizarre coincidences aren't really all that rare, or all that coincidental.
Renee Klang
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most beautifully written books i have ever read. Wiggins mingles physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy in this marvelous love story between two unique characters .
Couldn't decide between 4 or 5 stars because of the ending and something that Flash does that seemed hard to believe. However, because I couldn't stop reading it and enjoyed the prose so much I decided to give it five.
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: just-finished
Marianne Wiggins for vice president!!!! I love this book...I am completely enamored by Marianne Wiggins' writing. The story of Fos and Opal and Flash and Lightfoot is beautiful and tragic and fascinating. I think The ShadowCatcher is a great American novel and I think this one is an even greater American novel...READ IT!!!! I'm even contemplating going back to Moby Dick and actually reading it this time, as I failed to do so junior year of high school.
Kathleen Nightingale
Oct 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
From the first page to the last page I forced myself through the experience. This book was a book club suggestion so I was bound bent and determined to finish the darn thing. I never did get a handle on the characters or feel invested in them. The language though was amazing. I don't believe I have ever felt so bored with a book.
Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book about love--of wife, husband, friend, child, life.
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorite books: a beautiful, epic story, beautifully written.
Annisa Anggiana
“I know that every atom of life in all this universe is bound up together. I know that pebble cannot be thrown into the ocean without distrubing every drop of water in the sea. I know that every life is inextricably mixed and woven with every other life. I know that every influence, conscious and unconscious, acts and reacts on every living organism, and that no one can fix the blame.

I know that all life is a series of infinite chances, which sometimes result one way and sometimes another. I h
Albert Norton
Aug 23, 2017 rated it liked it

I picked this book up because of the title. It's a phrase from Hebrews, chapter 11: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen." (KJV). Non-believers sometimes cite it as logical bootstrapping, but it's not. Other translations get away from the philosophically slippery meaning of "substance," to say that our belief in the unseen is a matter of degree. Moreover, it is not the faith itself that is "evidence of things unseen," it is the subject matter of that faith,
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ray Foster is fascinated with light. During the war he helps light up the battlefield so that the soldiers can see what is in front of them. After the war he continues to follow his amateur chemist’s investigations. He is always trying to discover new “natural” lighting and a way to recreate it with science. When Flash, a former war buddy, asks Ray to start a photography business with him, Ray is in his glory.

On one of his amateur investigations of light, Ray meets a girl names Opal. The name s
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Here is another consummate American writer that was previously unknown to me. Wiggins creates one oi the most difficult characters, an ordinary man, Ray Foster, trained as a candle maker. Gassed in World War I, 'Fos', frequently tearful as a result of the mustard gas and distinguished by that and his glasses becomes a photographer because of his disability but also because of his fascination with new gadgets and inventions such as radium. His other interest is in the stars. He seems to be fated ...more
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book was chosen for my book club. We had a great discussion on it and like most of the books we choose 1/2 liked it and 1/2 disliked it. I belonged to the group that wasn't too impressed by it.

Evidence of Things Unseen tells the story of Fos, his wife Opal, their son Lightfoot, and Fos's best friend and work partner Flash. Set in the 1920's to 1920's in Tennesse.

At first I really enjoyed it, how Fos and Opal met, the sentences were beautiful and tender. My favorite part described the first
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: uucss-book-group
I like fiction about people who talk about science.
A passage I like (pages 12-13):
But the truth was, for that first year after he was demobilized, that first year in Tennessee, Fos eschewed the company of the gentler sex and stayed almost entirely to himself, either in the darkroom of in his rented place above a bakery, studying about light and working on his theories how to capture it. Fos had several theories that first year. One thing that the War had taught him--and that working under Flash'
Elizabeth K.
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007-new-reads
I kept encountering positive reviews of this book, but the description always left me unmoved -- according to the back of the book, it "describes America at the brink of the Atomic Age. In the years between the two world wars, the future held more promise than peril, but there was evidence of things unseen that would transfigure our unquestioned trust in a safe future." That sounds tiresome, yes? Fortunately for me, we can completely disregard that explanation. This book was truly winsome. Okay, ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Marianne Wiggins knows how to weave magic from mere words. This book, so simple in its tale, becomes a layered, textured, bittersweet illumination of things we cannot see. Love, yes, but deep and enduring love, not the kind built upon physical desire. Faith, of course, but an active faith in the building blocks of our world,, our society, our families, even ourselves.

Set against the backdrop of rural Tenessee during the 1920's to post-WWII, Ray Foster is a man obsessed with science, in an age w
JoAnne Pulcino

Marianne Wiggins

A lyrical novel that takes place during the years between the two world wars, and at the brink of the atomic age following a couple through their lifetime and the fascination with light.

Fos a veteran returning from the trenches of France is fascinated with science and technology especially x ray and light. He falls in love with Opal whose father is a glassblower who can spin color out of light. They move to Knoxville where Fos and his buddy, Flash open a
Leslie Kay
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written engaging story about love, loss and life. I enjoyed all of the characters and the happiness and tragic-ness of their lives. The ending reminded me of Castaway with Tom Hanks, but hey, it could happen. Despite the desire to feel that the ending seems oversimplified,or too easily wrapped up, the journey is heartbreaking and breathtaking. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Favorite quotes:

"Still, as much as she was headstrong, single-minded, and self-made, she could see a vision o
Jerry Landry
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
I don't really know what this book was about. I followed everything ok, but not sure where it all went. It is a sprawling plot, arcing over decades and generations. There are some interesting locations and points in time - WWI, Outer Banks, TVA dams, Jim Crow, WWII and Oak Ridge. There is a love story that is lovely. But the book begins and ends with Lightfoot, and why? The writing was lovely and the story was interesting but I just didn't understand what was driving things and how it all hung t ...more
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most hauntingly gorgeous reads I have ever savoured. Phenomenal, epic sweep and unique poetry. Would like to start it all over again, fully aware that there are even deeper layers to this book that reveal their secrets slowly.
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Marianne Wiggins is the author of seven books of fiction including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers' Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and she was a National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-finalist in fiction for Evidence of Things Unseen.
“Wherever love comes from, whatever is its genesis, it isn’t like a quantity of gold or diamonds, even water in the earth-a fixed quantity, Fos thought. You can’t use up love, deplete it at its source. Love exists beyond fixed limits. Beyond what you can see or count.” 7 likes
“Maybe there are moments between any two adults in love when the age of one of them dissolves before the other's eyes, when the first refuge of the soul at its creation is laid bare and skinless as a sunbeam through a window. Innocence and vulnerability, two unmeasurable quantities...Perhaps that is the essence of the protection's intimacy, that it dwells in camouflage and justifies itself in stillness.” 7 likes
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