Before I picked up And the Dark Sacred Night, I’d read several other books by Julia Glass, including Three Junes and The Whole World Over. Both of those are on my books-to-keep-forever shelf. This was enough to make me grab her latest novel without even needing to know its scope, and I’m so glad I did. The connections between And the Dark Sacred Night’s characters are numerous and fine, and to talk too much about the plot threatens to give the book’s darkness and sweetness away. It was a luxury to start reading this book without knowing spoilers: to discover its connections and be surprised by them as I read in real time.
So, I’d rather not focus on the plot. Instead, I’d prefer to leave others the possibility of finding these links between the book’s characters while they read, not before. The pleasure in this discernment is more than sufficient without the context of Glass’s other books; with that context, such links become even more poignant.
The book begins with a boy and a girl. Malachy and Daphne, teenagers at a music camp, are on the precipice of what seems like young love. I would have happily read a whole book with them as the protagonists, but that’s not the intention of the plot, although the two end up being crucial to the entire story.
The next section moves to a young family made up of a struggling couple, the unemployed Kit and his long-suffering wife Sandra, and their twins (Will and Fanny). Glass then swoops back to Malachy and Daphne. Following a brief scene with the two of them, Glass presents us with the wonderful character of Jasper, an older man who wears many hats, and—in just one of the novel’s many overlaps—is Kit’s stepfather. (I could read an entire book about Jasper, too!)
And the book continues with this interwoven structure. Daphne and Malachy appear at regular interludes, which soon reveal themselves to be taking place at a different time than the action in the book’s other, longer sections. After each interlude, the narrative shifts back to the relative present with Kit, Jasper, and other characters. Some of these people, like Fenno, will be familiar to those who have read Three Junes. (I was thrilled to see these Three Junes characters emerge again in And the Dark Sacred Night’s past and present, in others’ memories and as themselves.)
And the Dark Sacred Night is complicated and beautiful. The construction of the plot, and the layering of events and characters’ relationships to one another, is superb. My only question is to whom I should lend my copy. I can think of several people who would enjoy this book as much as I did.
Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.
Review copy was provided by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.