A minor car accident damages a topiary clock in a Cape Cod rotary; Alden Warren is an eye-witness to the mishap in the fog. When Alden sees a baby in the backseat of a car driven by druggie-porn star Layla, Alden wants the child for herself.
Maria Flook is the author of Invisible Eden, a non-fiction book about a womanâ€™s disappearance on Cape Cod. In LUX, her third novel, she returns to a similar theme. Her main character, Alden Warren, is left to wonder when her husband vanishes. An avid butterfly collector, Monty had a lover and the local cops are fairly certain his disappearance was entirely voluntary. Alden has a lonely job in a bookstore at the National Seashore; she volunteers to visit shut ins and collects the carcasses of fallen seagulls. Alden conducts a desultory affair with a businessman in Boston. She lives a shadowed life barely disturbing the air as she passes; only Hiram, the old man she visits, seems able to penetrate the veil that surrounds her.
Lux Davis is a local landscaper. Heâ€™s sexually involved with his sister-in-law ; her husband is a long-line fisherman and is never home. When a nurseryâ€™s owner wants a stand of trees dug up for delivery to a new housing development, the novel’s central action begins to unfold.
The novel has two point of view characters, Alden and Lux; when the author gets them on the same page, sparks fly. Itâ€™s a wonder that Alden, fresh from learning sheâ€™s not about to become the mother of an abandoned infant, can respond at all. As for Lux heâ€™s the victim of a childhood almost as bizarre as Aldenâ€™s. Giant mirrors and shrink wrapped yachts haunt him. Itâ€™s a burden as they traverse the discordant home turf; they went to the same high school, Lux and Alden become lovers.
Ms. Flookâ€™s beautiful prose doesnâ€™t disguise her eye for absurdities, both real and imagined. A loggerhead turtle wears a seatbelt on the way to its autopsy; a poisoned seagull crashes through a skylight, hits the floor and flies away. It seems the wildlife of Cape Cod are the victims of their proximity to those with good intentions.
In flashback we meet Monty on the day he died; the local cops arenâ€™t quite as dumb as they appear; they have their eye on Lux and Alden, but as with everything else in this novel itâ€™s not about the obvious. Lux and Alden are drawn to one another in a union of damaged psyches. Itâ€™s romance with reverse polarity; these two should never have found one another, but they have.
LUX is a novel that defies the conventions of several major genres from Romance to Crime; the author knows exactly what sheâ€™s doing, carefully creating expectations imposed by the limits of book marketing before shattering those expectations. She pays homage to everyone from Stephen King to RW Emerson; Hiram, the only grounded character in the book, is old and sick. He hectors Alden into doing his errands, but offers her solid advice.
If LUX were optioned for film, it would either be the worst movie ever made or one of the best; the story elements shift and reform much like the “living sand” of the Cape. This approach probably cost the author in terms of sales, which, if true, is a shame. LUX deserves a wide readership, the author should get a ticker tape parade down Broadway. Or The Boston Post Road at the very least.