Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Post Ironic: June a novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

 June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is a novel that tests the reader’s patience. I kept waiting for resolution of Cassie’s dilemma, but she lacked the will to move, lying in bed in her recently inherited dilapidated mansion. Fresh from New York City where she had a disappointing showing of her photograph work, Cassie is too careless and depressed to pick up her camera. She does keep framing shots in her mind in spite of grieving the death of her grandmother, June.

Into every depression a little sunlight must shine, and in Cassie’s case it comes in the sensations of sound and light, a knock on the door on a sunny day. I expected a rapid turnaround for Cassie but the pace of the novel did not change much with the arrival at her door of a young man approximately Cassie’s age with news about her inheritance. Nick has interesting information that may be life changing for the twenty-five year old recluse living in the small rural town of St. Jude, Ohio.

June had a personal history unknown to her granddaughter that included a brush with the bright lights and glamour of 1950s Hollywood. Famous star Jack Montgomery had come to St. Jude then to shoot part of a movie, and for some mysterious reason Cassie was now the recipient of a hidden legacy. Now I was hooked and settled into the slow-paced unfolding of the story.

The novel is presented in chapters alternating between 1955 and 2015, between June’s young hopeful life and Cassie’s continuing depressive symptoms. I found that I could only read for a short time, an hour at most. After that, when confronted with a new chapter, I put the novel down and looked for other things to do. But patiently, I always looked forward to coming back to June.

As the current saying goes, reading June is not for everyone. The novel is very well-written in the style of good historical novels. The mystery of the novel is in the relationships between characters, both blood and friendship, that create complex patterns of behavior over the decades. Beverly-Wittemore's post-ironic writing is wonderful in her character development and realistic depiction of life past and present in a small isolated Midwestern town. The careful patient reader will be rewarded by very good reading experiences in the 400 page novel.