Finished August 31
The Eye of the Day by Dennison Smith
This book begins in 1938 with an accidental explosion at Greensboro, a rural railway station in Vermont. At the station, Amos Cobb is a handyman with various employers and as the book begins is on a ladder stoking adding fuel for the engine. Aubrey Brown, age 11, is waiting on the platform with his father Everett for his mother who is expected on a passenger train shortly.
The explosion sends a spike from the train's body through Amos' head, entering his jaw, exiting through the top of his head and blinding one of his eyes. Aubrey gets a couple of small cuts from exploding light bulbs, but his thoughts immediately go to Amos, a man he likes and looks up to, and who worked as a handyman at his grandmother's summer home nearby. Aubrey's grandmother is a grand, opinionated lady who runs the lives of her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson as much as she is able to. Her daughter, Aubrey's mother Ruth, is delicate, having an enlarged heart, but a way of observing and listening that endears her to those around her. Aubrey's father Everett is an archeology professor, academic, absent-minded, but totally in love with his wife.
The following summer Ruth insists on hiring Amos despite his disfigurement, and the family is his sole employer that year. That summer Everett has a new camera that has caught the interest of Aubrey, and when he finds that Greta Garbo is staying on the lake that summer, he is determined to get a shot of her. He gets more than he bargained for, and his summer is derailed shortly thereafter.
We continue with Aubrey's story as he enters the orbit of his uncle, Jack Shaw of Standard Oil, and comes under the fascination of Jack's wife Ethyl.
Jack's orbit is large and high, and one of his close associates is Irénée du Pont, a man with much power and influence. With Jack, Aubrey goes to Mexico, Nazi Germany, Cuba, and the oil fields of Alberta, using his camera to capture the lives he comes across along the way.
Meanwhile Amos flees his home to avoid committing violence against his wife Donna and, unbeknownst to him gets accused of just what he hoped to avoid. He wanders, with some purpose, north and then west, finding a companion, Kona, along the way that understands him as no one else has, even Aubrey. But when his path crosses Jack's, his life is spun in another direction from what he wants, and he ends up in the war.
When Aubrey and Amos meet again near the end of World War II in Italy, they must understand each other in new ways, and find that they get along well. When one saves the other's life, the story changes again, and only one returns to the mountains of Vermont to try to find a life again in the ruins of his life.
The writing in the book is wonderful, and I found myself reading portions aloud to whoever would listen to me. I loved the imagery, the dialogue, the characters, the plot, everything about this book.
Here is a small example from Amos:
"I don't got a picture of Kona, but I figure those paintings of hell in the churches are there to make you think of Heaven, so I carry Donna around."
This is my favourite read this year so far, and I can't say enough good things about it.