Melissa's Reviews > Evidence of Things Unseen

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins
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's review
Oct 17, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: all-time-favorites, gifts, constant-reader
Read in June, 2007

This book came to me as the gift of a dear friend. A story of love, regret, how people (mis)understand each other, and how lives interconnect, often invisibly. The setting is mid-century Tennessee, with glances back and forward. Many passages of beautiful description. One of my all-time favorites.

The novel takes two ordinary people and propels their story forward by the working of several interwoven themes: Fos’s fascination with light and science, Opal’s journey of change and self-discovery, encounters with the night sky and with bodies of water, and ultimately the mysterious forces of invisible connection that operate on the people and events. The story sparkles throughout with what reviewers aptly call ‘luminous’ and ‘poetic’ language, the author’s beautiful descriptions of both place and character.

The first time I read the book I found the references to Melville and the frequent incursion of scientific topics rather distracting; eventually I realized that the characters’ discussions of Moby-Dick and the ways in which Fos mused on bioluminescence or the mysteries of X-rays or 'the curve of binding energy' added depth and forged stronger connections across the various parts of the book.

The central character of the river seems at first a placid place of refuge and fellowship, where friendships deepen, before its latent destructiveness comes more fully into view. The novel’s central story, while planted firmly in central Tennessee, is flanked and bound up by significant moments on the coasts of Carolina and California. Beginnings and endings are marked by the annual Perseid shower of falling stars.

The heart of the book lies in its heartrending love story. We see clearly what Fos and Opal experience and value in each other. The day they meet and fumble into love unfurls in comic dialogue and tender touch, lightly echoed in their last embrace. Their relationship develops through a series of ordinary and remarkable circumstances, as they master the photography business and later acquire a failing farm and an unexpected child. Catastrophe and betrayal come from the failures of family and friends, yet even more from the terrible success of Fos’s beloved science, whose ‘progress’ unleashes on them its silent violence. What is unseen both binds and destroys.

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Quotes Melissa Liked

Marianne Wiggins
“What being in the War and being in the Army had shown him was that people tend naturally toward light, toward its source, as sunflowers do in a field.
People lean, either in their dreams or in their actions, toward that place where they suspect their inner lights are coming from. Whether they call it God or conscience or the manual of Army protocol, people sublime toward where their inner fire burns, and given enough fuel for thought and a level playing field to dream on, anyone can leave a fingerprint on the blank of history. That's what
Fos believed.”
Marianne Wiggins, Evidence of Things Unseen

Reading Progress

02/03/2009 page 3
02/07/2009 page 17
4.25% "slowly savoring her words ..."
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