Trust Exercise: A Novel
by Susan Choi
Henry Holt and Co. (April 9, 2019)
Kindle edition $13.99, Amazon hardcover $18.81
I had seen positive reviews of this book, and it was in my collection of Kindle samples. It was about the time I was ready to start a new book when I read that it had won the 2019 National Book Award for fiction. I decided that it was time to read it.
The plot line involves a high school for the performing arts and the school’s students and faculty, along with a group of visiting British theater students and their teacher. Those visitors are critical to the plot. The relationships among the characters get complicated, which moves much of the plot forward.
The structure of the novel is interesting. The first half of the book reads like a straightforward novel told in the third person. The second half of the book takes place thirteen years later and is told from the perspective of one of the characters who, in the first half, plays a secondary role. Interestingly, Choi alternates between the first and third person in this section. There are also flashbacks that explain why the character has put a rather heinous plan into action.
The novel ends with a sort of epilogue that takes the story a number of years into the future. Loose ends do not get tied up, but I nevertheless did not feel cheated. The characters and the writing left me with the feeling that the novel had accomplished what it set out to do.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, bringing the Christmas season to a close. So we move on to yet another new year. I have shared this in years past, but the feeling clings to me once again this year. That feeling is that I am ambivalent about how we express Epiphany in our lives and in our world. I want to believe Howard Thurman (on the right), but Auden (on the left) seems to be much closer to what I personally experience. Perhaps I can accept Auden as the quotidian reality and see Thurman as the aspirational goal.
However you see it, happy Epiphany and all the best in this new year
|Well, so that is that. Now we must
dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their
cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken —
and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be
taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.
There are enough Left-overs to do, warmed-up,
for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite,
having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted —
quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen
the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain
His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot
keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension
at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot,
after all, now
Be very far off.
—W.H. Auden, from For the Time Being
|When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.