And the Dark Sacred Night: A Novel
Julia Glass
Pantheon, $26.95

Reviewed by Rebecca Steinitz ’86, a Boston-based literacy consultant, editor, and freelance writer.


Beginning with the brilliant Three Junes (2002), Julia Glass ’78 has constructed her novels around multiple generations of characters, whose lives intertwine across her pages and even between her books. Her latest, And the Dark Sacred Night, begins with Kit Noonan standing at the cusp of failed middle age. Professionally and personally stalled after not getting tenure, he can’t bring himself to fix a leaky roof, let alone find a job. Meanwhile, his over-competent wife and nine-year-old twins seem increasingly capable of managing without him.

Just as Kit’s melancholia threatens to overcome the reader’s sympathy, his wife sends him off to find the father whom his single mother, a teenager when he was born, refuses to talk about. When his mother rebuffs his questions again, Kit takes his quest to his ex-stepfather, who provides the key to his past. As Kit’s family expands, his parents and grandparents take over the story—and the novel comes to vivid life, revealing their pasts and presents as they realize, willing or not, that they have entered the last chapters of their lives and must decide how to write them.

This may sound like domestic melodrama, and the novel certainly has its satisfyingly stormy moments, both figural and literal. But it also provides a nuanced and thorough exploration of contemporary parenthood (wanted, unwanted, single, step, grand), love and marriage (straight, gay, divorced), and getting older (in youth and middle and old age).

Readers of Three Junes and The Whole World Over (2006) will happily reencounter Fenno McLeod, Malachy Burns, and Walter (Fenno’s boyfriend), their stories deepened and extended. And all readers will delight in Glass’s exquisitely astute observations of her characters’ material and emotional worlds.