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A Slant of Light by Jeffrey Lent

A Slant of Light

by Jeffrey Lent

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Jeffrey Lent’s A Slant of Light features the life and death issues so closely associated with his work, and in this case an oblique approach to resolving the central conflict. These aspects of Mr. Lent’s latest novel don’t necessarily separate it from previous brilliant efforts like In the Fall and Lost Nation, not at all - but they reinforce and add depth to his already stunning body of work. A Slant of Light uses a device not often found in previous Lent novels: he uses a focused image to suggest the wider and more significant events swirling around the tragic hero. This book is a marvel.

Malcolm Hopeton returns to his Finger Lakes farm from fighting in the Civil War. He spent a full four years in what he felt was personal combat with evil. He comes home to find his farm fallow, stripped of crops and equipment, and his wife gone. At the root of all this damage is the man Hopeton had trusted to take care of things in his absence. The usurper made a clean sweep of everything Hopeton held as his own. In the stunning and brutal first scene of the book, Hopeton kills the villain, and also the wife he had called his own.

The book follows events in the murders’ wake: young Harlan Davis worked Hopeton’s farm and was trustworthy in Hopeton’s absence and remains so, although he thinks no one understands what really happened (he was a witness). Neighboring farmer August Swartout takes Harlan in after the crime, since he already employs Harlan’s older sister. Much of the plot revolves around these three who are caught up in the wretched business; they each have paths they must follow to see things set right, and particularly Harlan’s row is difficult to hoe.

The real focus here is Malcolm, however. While the state may be persuaded to clemency, he’s simply resigned to a death sentence, in fact thinks it’s the only just thing. Malcolm sits in a cell in the basement of the court house and half-consciously watches the progress of days in the form of sunlight slanting through a high window opposite. And the light of justice swings around in its inexorable way, its path pushed and bent by the actions of the principals. It’s a lovely, an elegant device, a fine and impressive stroke by a master.

We find the period’s religious preoccupations on display, as well as the daily, grinding challenge of running a farm at the time. We encounter interesting secondary characters, like the two legal professionals who will attempt to influence and decide the case, and a handful of wonderful women, each of whom enjoys Mr. Lent’s full and assured touch.

I’ve believed for years in Jeffrey Lent’s mastery. He’s ambitious and eloquent, and adorns his prose only with the most appropriate descriptive touches that never detract from his art. I think this is his best book yet, and from me, that’s a real compliment.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2016/08/a-slant-of-light-by-jeffrey-lent.html ( )
  LukeS | Aug 6, 2016 |
  KelMunger | May 1, 2015 |
I absolutely loved this book and now have all of the previous books by Jeffrey Lent on my must-be-read list. This one is not a light read and it’s not a fast read but it is definitely an absorbing read. The author has a deep understanding of the human heart and knows how to portray that understanding with words. He’s created a literary work of art with this book.

Malcolm Hopeton is a soldier in the Civil War who spends four years fighting what he perceives to be the evil that has pervaded the United States, only to find evil on his own doorstep when he returns home. His story is the prevailing one; however, many of the characters have their own compelling stories to tell. I won’t go into any of those stories as I believe the author has done a perfect job of bringing to light each of their lives and backgrounds in a slow, sure way.

The author is a master at depicting the time period and the hardness of farm life. He has the heart of a poet and when he describes a picnic in a meadow, you’re there with them, smelling the flowers, feeling the warm wind on your face, tasting the food. Even the eating of a peach becomes a sensuous experience. This is a passionate, powerful book. Some people won’t like the ending and will feel like they’ve been left hanging but I believe enough was told towards the end of the book that you know how it will all turn out without being specifically told.

One of the best books I’ve read this year and well deserving of any prizes that are ahead for it.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. ( )
  hubblegal | Apr 23, 2015 |
When Malcolm Hopeton returns to his farm in upstate New York, after fighting in the Civil War, he find most of his possessions and his wife gone. This novel opens with a act of violence and as a reader I thought I knew what was going to happen, a bad man would be caught and hanged. Wrong, the lines are not so clear. There is so much more to the story despite presumptions to the contrary and that is the genius of this novel and this author.

Through a young man who had worked on his farm for many years we hear some of the story, and in memories from Malcolm himself as he sits in jail awaiting his fate, we hear of the relationship between he and his wife. Such wonderful characters, women and men, and I really wanted to know the real story behind these actions. Amazing writing, his descriptions place you right there and are incredibly beautiful. Hard working farmers, a community of The Friends, people who care about each other, and a man who seems to be helpful but has his own agenda.

First novel I have read by this author but have now become a big fan.
A wonderful book to become immersed in with on a cloudy, cold afternoon.

ARC from NetGalley. ( )
  Beamis12 | Feb 6, 2015 |
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