April 18, 2012

Clearing out the past

By Lynda Rutledge
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Faith Bass Darling has her moments. More and more of them all the time, when she has to repeat her checklist ("My name is Faith Bass Darling. I live at 101 Old Waco Road in Bass, Texas") to bring herself back to the present. But today's present is a shade different from the usual—it's the last day before Y2K. And God told Faith that she was going to die today. So perhaps she should try to face all the things she has avoided thinking about for 20 years—her dear son's accidental death, her husband's share in it—now what were they again?

Oh yes. God had also told her to sell the scores of original Tiffany lamps, the 18th century automaton elephant clock with moving trunk, the old banker's rolltop desk, the Dance Dragoon pistol, the heirloom diamond wedding ring (if only it could be found) and all the other priceless family antiques that she had clung to for years. At whatever price the buyer suggested, say, a quarter, perhaps, or two or three. The neighborhood rallied around.

Everything had to go before she did—perhaps even including the missteps, the misunderstandings, the false starts and the prejudices of generations. Meanwhile, her long-estranged daughter, Claudia, learns of the yard sale from a childhood friend (much-conflicted local antiques dealer Bobbie) and reluctantly comes home to deal with the emergency. She has her own problems, and it's not easy to work with the mess. Indeed, sometimes, details do not get dealt with at all, but, at least, channels are cleared between Claudia and her mother, with Bobbie, and with John Jasper Johnson, a prime player in the tragedies of the past and the reconciliation of the future. Even good-hearted but ineffectual Father George A. Fallow finds some encouragement for the years to come.

Oh, this book, a first novel by Texas journalist Lynda Rutledge, is a good one, full of thoughtfulness, staying power, and a touch of other-worldliness. Do try to get it in before the Mayan Apocalypse.

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