Lark and Termite

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"Lark and Termite is set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us." "At its center, two children: Lark, on the verge of adulthood, and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but filled with radiance. Around them, their mother, Lola, a haunting but absent presence; their aunt Nonie, a matronly, vibrant woman in her fifties, who raises them; and Termite's

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2009-01-06 Hardcover New 2009 FIRST EDITION STATED. Hardback w/ DJ. You are buying a Book in NEW condition with very light shelf wear.

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0375401954 SIGNED by the AUTHOR ~ Brand NEW ~ Hardcover with beautiful Dust Jacket ~ all books carefully examined & well packaged

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Westminister, Maryland, U.S.A. 2009 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. 12mo-over 6?"-7?" tall. This is a New and Unread copy of the first edition (1st printing)l.

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2009 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. Signed by author. New/New Unread. DJ in Brodart wrapper. Signed by the author on the title page. Sewn binding. Cloth over ... boards. 272 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. First Edition signed by the author on the title page. New/New Read more Show Less

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Lark and Termite

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Overview

"Lark and Termite is set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us." "At its center, two children: Lark, on the verge of adulthood, and her brother, Termite, a child unable to walk and talk but filled with radiance. Around them, their mother, Lola, a haunting but absent presence; their aunt Nonie, a matronly, vibrant woman in her fifties, who raises them; and Termite's father, Corporal Robert Leavitt, who finds himself caught up in the chaotic early months of the Korean War." Told with deep feeling, the novel invites us to enter into the hearts and thoughts of the leading characters, even into Termite's intricate, shuttered consciousness. We are with Leavitt, trapped by friendly fire alongside the Korean children he tries to rescue. We see Lark's dreams for Termite and her own future, and how, with the aid of a childhood love and a spectral social worker, she makes them happen. We learn of Lola's love for her soldier husband and her children, and unravel the mystery of her relationship with Nonie. We discover the lasting connections between past and future on the night the town experiences an overwhelming flood, and we follow Lark and Termite as their lives are changed forever.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
We admire Lark and Termite for the subtlety of its prose and its nuanced rendering of the relationship between its two main characters.

Jayne Anne Phillips's first fiction in nine years immerses us in the lives of Termite, Lark, and Nonie, three characters as memorable as their names. Set in rural West Virginia and war-torn Korea during the 1950ss, Lark and Termite follows an inquisitive 17-year-old girl; her younger, developmentally challenged brother; and their aunt, the hardworking woman who raised them, through a single, eventful week in 1959. Through captivating flashbacks, memories, and vignettes, we learn the deepest secrets about them and the parents absent from their lives. A major work by the author of Black Tickets and Machine Dreams.
Kathryn Harrison
Jayne Anne Phillips renders what is realistically impossible with such authority that the reader never questions its truth. This is the alchemy of great fiction: the fantastic dream that's created in Lark and Termite is one the reader enters without ever looking back.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michiko Kakutani
Jayne Anne Phillips's intricate, deeply felt new novel reverberates with echoes of Faulkner, Woolf, Kerouac, McCullers and Michael Herr's war reporting, and yet it fuses all these wildly disparate influences into something incandescent and utterly original…Ms. Phillips knows her characters so intimately and tackles their stories with such ferocity that the novel does not devolve into soap opera but instead ascends into the higher, more rarified altitudes of fable.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
On the surface, nothing about the West Virginia family in Lark and Termite seems especially noteworthy, except perhaps the consistency of their misfortune, but the author reveals their tangled secrets in such a profound and intimate way that these ordinary, wounded people become both tragic and magnificent.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

From Phillips (Motherkind; Shelter) comes a long-awaited and wonderful coming-of-age tale of grief and survival. The story straddles a parallel six-day period in July, one in 1959-during which 17-year-old Lark; her brother, Termite, who can't talk; and their aunt and caretaker, Nonie, are struggling to balance hope and despair in smalltown West Virginia-and nine years earlier, when Termite's father, Robert Leavitt, serves a tour in Korea. Lark, living with her aunt without knowing who her father is or why her mother gave her up, was nine years old when baby Termite landed on their doorstep. Nonie works long hours at a local restaurant to support the hodgepodge family, leaving Lark to take over mothering duties, but as Lark finishes secretarial school and realizes how limited the options are for her and Termite, forces of nature and odd individuals shed light on mysteries of the past and lend a hand in steering the next course of action. Through Robert and Nonie's stories and by exposing the innermost thoughts of each character, Phillips creates a wrenching portrait of devotion while keeping the suspense at a palpitating level. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In her latest novel, Phillips (Machine Dreams; Motherkind) works with favorite themes in a tale of secrets, family bonds, and the power of love related through multiple perspectives and set during the 1950s. Central to the narrative are a remarkable pair of siblings orphaned by the Korean War. Born the day his soldier father perished in the notorious No Gun Ri massacre, the young boy called Termite possesses unusual perception unnoticed by most observers because of his severe disabilities. His prospects in tiny Winfield, WV, seem dismal, but teenage sister Lark, who adores her little brother, won't give up. She schemes to gain a happy mutual future even while she is pursued romantically by a much older man, threatened with Termite's removal by the state, and endangered by approaching floodwaters. These suspenseful plot elements (including more than a hint of the supernatural) are supported by sensitively rendered characters and finely drawn Appalachian and Asian locales that create a poignant story with broad reader appeal. Recommended for most fiction collections.
—Starr E. Smith

From the Publisher
“Powerful and emotionally piercing. . . . A novel that conjures with poetic ferocity the… unconscious, almost magical bonds shared by people who are connected by blood or love or memory.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Anyone, male or female, who seriously cares about reading novels will find Lark and Termite to be intricately and beautifully composed.” —The New York Review of Books 
 
“Phillips . . . [knows] how to bypass the reader’s brain and inject her words directly into the bloodstream.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“There are books you recommend to everybody, and then there are books you share cautiously, even protectively. Jayne Anne Phillips’s Lark and Termite is that second kind, a mysterious, affecting novel you’ll want to talk about only with others who have fallen under its spell.” —The Washington Post Book World
 
“This novel is cut like a diamond, with such sharp authenticity and bursts of light.” —Alice Munro
 
Lark and Termite is a category of story unto itself: mythical without being gooey; wry and terribly moving; as ornately contrived as Dickens, as poetic as Morrison, yet unselfconscious in tone and peopled with vivid, salt-of-the-earth characters who mostly accept the limits on life’s possibilities with a shrug and another cup of coffee.” —Maureen Corrigan, “Fresh Air”
 
“A stylistic tour de force. . . . Pure, rapt poetry.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Fever-dreamy.” —Entertainment Weekly 
 
“A jewel of a book.” —St. Petersburg Times

“Phillips returns to working-class lives in what may be her most tender, most compassionate book to date. . . . Extraordinary.” —The Plain Dealer
 
“Jayne Anne Phillips renders what is realistically impossible with such authority that the reader never questions its truth. . . . The fantastic dream that’s created in Lark and Termite is one the reader enters without ever looking back.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
Lark and Termite is extraordinary and it is luminous. . . . It is the best novel I've read this year.” —Junot Díaz 

“Electrifying. . . . Gorgeous, stunning.” —Newsday 
 
“A narrative that is consistently inventive, evocative and uncompromising. . . . Haunting is a word much overused but Lark And Termite is exactly that: a novel whose elegant, lingering images are hard to shake from memory.” —The Independent  (London)
 
“Remarkable . . . swings from spare to sumptuous. . . . An intricate, affecting portrait of a darker corner of the American ‘50s.”—USA Today
 
“Extraordinary and brilliant. . . . With its echoes of William Faulkner and its almost mystical exploration of love in all its forms, but particularly between siblings, the novel is a powerful and tender portrayal of a family that in the end proves literally unsinkable.” —The Sunday Times (London) 
 
“Evocative. . . . Lark and Termite offers substantial rewards for readers who value passages of gorgeous, intelligent writing.” —The Boston Globe

“What a beautiful, beautiful novel this is–so rich and intricate in its drama, so elegantly written, so tender, so convincing, so penetrating, so incredibly moving.” —Tim O’Brien
 
“A richly textured novel with a wondrous story at its heart about the many permutations of love and the complexities it engenders.” —Sunday Herald  (London)
 
“Acute and elegant.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Moving and suspenseful. . . . Phillips weaves the characters’ stories masterfully, touching on betrayal and forgiveness, war’s horror, natural disaster, secrets of the past, the love and dedication of an extended family of friends, mystery and death.” —The Miami Herald
 
“Luminous and haunting and singular. . . . Because [Lark and Termite] deals with issues over which people have been arguing for centuries—family and war—the novel’s raw immediacy is really quite spectacular. . . . Phillips serves it all up with a prose that sparkles and startles.” —Chicago Tribune
 
“Phillips reinvigorates and transforms the Faulknerian infrastructure. . . . Exquisitely explored.” —Bookforum

“Sharply lyrical. . . . Once you open [Lark and Termite’s] hypnotic pages you will find yourself pulled like metal to a magnet.” —Dallas Morning News
 
Lark And Termite is about Big Themes: love, death, war, time, consciousness, perception, especially sound, and language itself. . . . Its belief in redemption and hope are not the least of Lark And Termite's blessings.” —The Observer (London)
 
“A tale with a Southern Gothic flair, startlingly alive language and the intensity of four narrators. . . . It’s easy to fall into the world Phillips has created and inside the heartache of the well-rendered characters.” —The Oregonian
 
“Riveting and moving. . . . Lark’s pragmatism, clear-eyed love and determination to hold on to her brother are strikingly fresh and heroic.” —The Seattle Times
 
“Strange and beautiful at every turn as Phillips taps into powerful magic with a tale that surprises to its last page.” —St. Petersburg Times 
 
“Exquisite. . . . The story’s rich symbols and parallels are carried along by the sounds, images and rhythms of Phillips’ wordcraft. This is Phillips writing at her best.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“Jayne Anne Phillips . . . is at the height of her powers in Lark and Termite. . . . This is a major novel from one of America’s finest writers.”—Robert Olen Butler
 
“Sinuous and evocative.” —Salon 
 
“A celebration of language. . . . There’s joy here, and the bold confidence of a mature talent at full stretch.” —New York Observer
 
“For all its apparent focus on style and technique, Lark and Termite is a book of ideas, a thoughtful contemplation on the nature of human goodness. . . . Remarkable.”  —The Irish Times
 
“A tour de force of history, imagination and invention. It is resonant and profound, a masterpiece worth waiting for.” —More

 “You finish Lark and Termite wanting to turn back to the first page and start over, making sure not to miss a single note.” —San Francisco Chronicle

The Barnes & Noble Review
Jayne Anne Phillips astonished readers with her prodigious first book of short stories, Black Tickets (1979), and her masterful Vietnam-era novel, Machine Dreams. She returns full blast with her sixth work of fiction, a novel that explores how casualties of the Korean War reverberate through a patched-together West Virginia family. Lark and Termite carries clear Faulknerian lineage: Like The Sound and the Fury, its story is told, in language laced with idiosyncrasies, by a quartet of distinctive voices, one of whom, like Faulkner's Benjy, is mentally limited but gifted with a special interior vision. But it's Phillips's fluid and original prose and her imaginative virtuosity that put her in the same league with her southern forebear. The four storytelling voices in Lark and Termite are exquisitely balanced. Corporal Robert Leavitt's tale of war focuses on several days in July 1950, when, mortally wounded by his own forces, he is pinned down with a group of Korean refugees in a railroad tunnel at No Gun Ri. The other narratives are set in July 1959, as a big storm bears down on Winfield, West Virginia. Leavitt's son Termite, born while his father is fighting in Korea, has hydrocephaly and cannot speak or walk. His perceptions are conveyed in intense flashes of poetic brilliance. Termite's stepsister Lark, his major caretaker, is feisty and capable, with a palpable sensuality. Their aunt Nonie, who carries the family's secrets, adds a note of adult realism to the precarious situation in which the orphans find themselves, with Social Services aiming to separate them. As the novel unfolds, and the monstrous storm floods the town, the central figure of mystery becomes Lola, Nonie's rebellious sister, the seductive wife Robert Leavitt yearns for as he lies dying, the mother Lark and Termite can only conjure from hand-me-downs and shards of memory. Lola's story, and theirs, converge in this emotionally complex and deeply rewarding novel. --Jane Ciabattari
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375401954
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Jayne Anne Phillips is the author of three previous novels and two collections of widely anthologized stories. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Bunting Fellowship, a Howard Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy Award in Literature (1997) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Phillips is currently professor of English and director of the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark, the State University of New Jersey.
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Read an Excerpt

Winfield, West Virginia
July 26, 1959

Lark

I move his chair into the yard under the tree and then Nonie carries him out. The tree is getting all full of seeds and the pods hang down. Soon enough the seeds will fly through the air and Nonie will have hay fever and want all the windows shut to keep the white puffs out. Termite will want to be outside in the chair all the time then, and he’ll go on and on at me if I try to keep him indoors so I can do the ironing or clean up the dishes. Sun or rain, he wants to be out, early mornings especially. “OK, you’re out,” Nonie will say, and he starts his sounds, quiet and satisfied, before she even puts him down. She has on her white uniform to go to work at Charlie’s and she holds Termite out from her a ways, not to get her stockings run with his long toenails or her skirt stained with his fingers because he always has jam on them after breakfast.

“There’s Termite.” Nonie puts him in the chair with his legs under him like he always sits. Anybody else’s legs would go to sleep, all day like that. “You keep an eye on him, Lark,” Nonie tells me, “and give him some lemonade when it gets warmer. You can put the radio in the kitchen window. That way he can hear it from out here too.” Nonie straightens Termite. “Get him one of those cleaner-bag ribbons from inside. I got to go, Charlie will have my ass.”

A car horn blares in the alley. Termite blares too then, trying to sound like the horn. “Elise is here,” Nonie says. “Don’t forget to wash the dishes, and wipe off his hands.” She’s already walking off across the grass, but Termite is outside so he doesn’t mind her going. Elise waves at me from inside her Ford. She’s a little shape in the shine of glare on the window, then the gravel crunches and they’re moving off fast, like they’re going somewhere important. “Termite,” I say to him, and he says it back to me. He always gets the notes right, without saying the words. His sounds are like a one-toned song, and the day is still and flat. It’s seven in the morning and here and there a little bit of air moves, in pieces, like a tease, like things are getting full so slow no one notices. On the kitchen wall we have one of those glass vials with blue water in it, and the water rises if it’s going to storm. The water is all the way to the top and it’s like a test now to wait and see if the thing works, or if it’s so cheap it’s already broken. “Termite,” I tell him, “I’ll fix the radio. Don’t worry.” He’s got to have something to listen to.
He moves his fingers the way he does, with his hands up and all his fingers pointing, then curving, each in a separate motion, fast or careful. He never looks at his fingers but I always think he hears or knows something through them, like he does it for some reason.
Charlie says he’s just spastic, that’s a spastic motion; Nonie says he’s fidgety, with whatever he has that he can’t put to anything. His fingers never stop moving unless we give him something to hold, then he holds on so tight we have to pry whatever it is away from him. Nonie says that’s just cussedness. I think when he holds something his fingers rest. He doesn’t always want to keep hearing things.

My nightgown is so thin I shouldn’t be standing out here, though it’s not like it matters. Houses on both sides of the alley have seen about everything of one another from their secondfloor windows. No one drives back here but the people who live here, who park their cars in the gravel driveways that run off the alley. We don’t have a car, but the others do, and the Tuccis have three—two that run and one that doesn’t. It’s early summer and the alley has a berm of plush grass straight up the center. All us kids—Joey and Solly and Zeke and me—walked the grass barefoot in summer, back and forth to one another’s houses. I pulled Termite in the wagon and the wheels fit perfectly in the narrow tire tracks of the alley. Nick Tucci still calls his boys thugs, proud they’re quick and tough. He credits Nonie with being the only mother his kids really remember, back when we were small.

Today is Sunday. Nick Tucci will run his push mower along the berm of the alley, to keep the weeds down. He does it after dusk, when he gets home from weekend overtime at the factory and he’s had supper and beer, and the grass smells like one sharp green thread sliced open. I bring Termite out. He loves the sound of that mower and he listens for it, once all the way down, once back. He makes a low murmur like r’s strung together, and he has to listen hard over the sounds of other things, electric fans in windows, radio sounds, and he sits still and I give him my sandals to hold. He looks to the side like he does, his hands fit into my shoes. Hiseyes stay still, and he hears. If I stand behind his chair I can feel the blade of the mower too; I feel it roll and turn way down low in me, making a whirl and a cutting.

Sundays seem as long as a year. Sundays I don’t walk up Kanawha Hill to Main Street to Barker Secretarial. I’m nearly through second semester, Typing and Basic Skills, but I’m First of Class and Miss Barker lets me sit in on Steno with the second-year girls. Miss Barker is not young. She’s a never-married lady who lives in her dead father’s house and took over the school for him when he died of a heart attack about ten years ago. The school is up above the Five & Ten, on the second floor of the long building with the long red sign that says in gold letters murphy’s five and ten cent store. It’s a really old sign, Nonie says, it was there when she and my mother were growing up, but the store was both floors then. Now Barker Secretarial has filled the big upstairs room with lines of Formica-topped desks, each with a pullout shelf where we keep our typing books (Look to the right, not to the keyboard, look to the right—). We have to be on time because the drills are timed and we turn on our machines all at once; there’s a ratchety click and a rumble, like the whole room surges, then it hums. The typewriters hum one note: it’s a note Termite could do, but what would he do with the sound of us typing. We all work at one speed for practice drills. We’re like a chorus and the clacking of the keys sounds measured, all together. Then at personal best we go for speed and all the rates are different. The machines explode with noise, running over themselves. Up near the big windows, for half the room, there’s a lowered fake ceiling with long fluorescent lights. The tops of the windows disappear in that ceiling and I hate it and I sit in the back. Barker Secretarial stopped with the ceiling halfway when they realized they didn’t have the money for air-conditioning, and they brought in big fans that roll on wheels like the wheels on Termite’s chair. Miss Barker gets those fans going and we all have to wear scarves to keep our hair from flying around. With the noise and the motion I can think I’m high up, moving fast above the town and the trees and the river and the bridges, and as long as I’m typing I won’t crash.

I tell Termite, “It’s not going to rain yet. He’ll still mow the alley. There’s not going to be stars though. It’s going to be hot and white, and the white sky will go gray. Then really late we might have that big storm they talk about.”

Big storm they talk about, Termite says back to me, in sounds like my words.

“That’s right,” I tell him. “But you’ll have to watch from the window. Don’t think you’re going to sit out here in the rain with lightning flashing all around you.”

He doesn’t say anything to that. He might be thinking how great it would be, wind and rain, real hard rain, not like the summer rain we let him sit out in sometimes. He likes motion. He likes things on his skin. He’s alive all over that way. Nonie says I put thoughts in his head, he might not be thinking anything. Maybe he doesn’t have to think, I tell her. Just don’t you be thinking a lot of things about him that aren’t true, she’ll say.

But no one can tell what’s true about him.

Termite was pretty when he was a baby. People would coo over him when we walked him in the big carriage. His forehead was real broad and he had blond curls and those blue eyes that move more than normal, like he’s watching something we don’t see. He was so small for his age that Nonie called him a mite, then Termite, because even then he moved his fingers, feeling the air. I think he’s in himself like a termite’s in a wall.

I remember when Termite came. Nonie is his guardian and his aunt, but I’m his sister. In a way he’s more mine than anyone else’s. He’ll be mine for longer, is what Nonie says. Nonie isn’t old but she always says to me about when she’ll be gone. She looks so strong, like a block or a rectangle, strong in her shoulders and her back and her wide hips, even in her legs and their blue veins that she covers up with her stockings. Your mother didn’t bring him, is what Nonie told me, someone brought him for her. Not his father. Nonie says Termite’s father was only married to my mother for a year. He was a baby, Nonie says, twenty-one when my mother was nearly thirty, and those bastards left him over there in Korea. No one even got his body back and they had to have the service around a flag that was folded up. Nonie says it was wrong and it will never be right. But I don’t know how Termite got here because Nonie sent me away that week to church camp. I was nine and had my birthday at camp, and when I came home Termite was here. He was nearly a year old but he couldn’t sit up by himself, and Nonie had him a baby bed and clothes and a high chair with cushions and straps, and she had papers that were signed. She never got a birth certificate though, so we count the day he came his birthday, but I make him a birthday whenever it suits me.

“Today could be a birthday,” I tell him. “One with a blue cake, yellow inside, and a lemon taste. You like that kind, with whipped cream in the center, to celebrate the storm coming, and Nick Tucci will get some with his ice tea tonight, and I’ll help you put the candles in. You come inside with me while I mix it and you can hold the radio. You can turn the dials around, OK?”

Dials around OK. I can almost answer for him. But I don’t. And he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want to come inside. I can feel him holding still; he wants to sit here. He puts his hand up to his face, to his forehead, as though he’s holding one of the strips of blue plastic Nonie calls ribbons: that’s what he wants. “There’s no wind, Termite, no air at all,” I tell him. He blows with his lips, short sighs.

So I move his chair back from the alley a bit and I go inside and get the ribbon, a strip of a blue plastic dry-cleaner bag about four inches wide and two feet long. It’s too small to get tangled and anyway we watch him; I take it out to him and wrap it around his hand twice and he holds it with his fingers curled, up to his forehead. “I’ll get dressed and clean up the kitchen,” I tell him, “but when I make the cake you’re going to have to come inside, OK?”

He casts his eyes sideways at me. That means he agrees, but he’s thinking about the blue, that strip of space he can move.

“You ring the bell if you want anything,” I say.

The bell on his chair was my idea; it’s really a bell for a hotel desk, flat, and he can press the knob with his wrist. That bell was mounted on a piece of metal with holes, maybe so no one would steal it once upon a time, or so it wouldn’t get misplaced. A lot of years ago, I sewed it to the arm of Termite’s chair with thick linen cord. His bell has a high, nice sound, not a bad sound. He presses it twice if he has to go to the bathroom, or a lot if something is wrong, or sometimes just once, now and then in the quiet, like a thought.

“Termite,” I tell him, “I’m going back in.”

Back in, back in, back in. I hear him as I walk away, and now he’ll be silent as a breather, quiet as long as I let him be.

I stand at the kitchen sink where I can see him, put the stopper in the sink, run the water as hot as it can get. The smell of the heat comes up at my face. The dishes sink into suds, and I watch Termite. His chair is turned a little to the side, and I can see him blowing on the ribbon, blowing and blowing it, not too fast. The little bit of air that stirs in the yard catches the length of that scrap and moves it. Termite likes the blue of the plastic and he likes to see through it. He blows it out from his face and he watches it move, and it barely touches him, and he blows it away. He’ll do that for thirty minutes, for an hour, till you take it away from him. In my dreams he does it for days, for years, like he’s keeping time, like he’s a clock or a watch. I draw him that way, fast, with pencil in my notebook. Head up like he holds himself then, wrist raised, moving blue with his breath.

People who see him from their second-story windows see a boy in a chair across the alley. They know his name and who he is. They know Noreen and how she’s worked at Charlie Fitzgibbon’s all these years, running the restaurant with Charlie while Gladdy Fitzgibbon owns it all and parcels out the money. How Nonie is raising kids alone that aren’t hers because Charlie has never told his mother to shove it, never walked off and made himself some other work and gone ahead and married a twice-divorced woman with a daughter and another kid who can’t walk and doesn’t talk.

Nonie is like my mother. When she introduces me, she says,

“This is my daughter, Lark.”

Nonie would be raising us anyway, whether Charlie ever did the right thing or not. And I don’t know if she even wants him to, anymore. It’s just Nonie should own part of that restaurant, hard as she works. Charlie does the cooking and runs the kitchen, and Nonie does everything else, always has, ever since she came back here when she left the second husband. She came back and there was Charlie right where she’d left him, living with his mother and going to Mass, and they fell right back into their old ways, and Gladdy fell into hers. Except the Fitzgibbons had just about nothing after the Depression. When Nonie came back, they’d barely held on to their house and the business. They would have lost the restaurant if Nonie hadn’t saved it for them,

From the Hardcover edition.

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Introduction

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Jayne Anne Phillips's richly layered new novel, Lark and Termite.

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Foreword

1. Have you read any of Jayne Anne Phillips's other books? If so, in what ways is Lark and Termite similar to her earlier work, and how is it different?

2. Reread the quotations in the epigraph. Now that you've read the novel, what does each one mean to you?

3. On page 5, Leavitt thinks, "The war makes ghosts of them all." In what ways does this prove true? Which ghosts are literal, and which metaphorical?

4. Who is the strongest person in the novel? The weakest?

5. Mothers, and substitute mothers, play a substantial role in the novel. What do you think Jayne Anne Phillips is trying to say about motherhood?

6. Compare and contrast the sibling relationships in the novel: Lark and Termite, Nonie and Lola, and the nameless Korean pair.

7. Discuss the sense of sound as it relates to each of the main characters. In what ways does sound function differently for Termite than for Nonie or Lark? What about Leavitt and Lola? What does the sense of sound say about the importance of language?

8. Two different tunnels are the settings for major developments in the novel. What do they signify?

9. On page 24, Lola says of Lark, "I gave her a bird's name. Maybe she'll grow up safe and fly away."And on page 34 Lark discusses Termite’s nickname: "I think he's in himself like a termite's in a wall." What other names in the novel carry metaphorical weight?

10. Why does Charlie take care of Lola? What about Onslow?

11. "Termite can only tell the truth," Lark says on page 85. Who else tells the truth? Who lies? What are the ramifications?

12. What role does Solly play?What about his father, Nick?

13. Throughout the novel, we revisit events from different perspectives. How do the multiple takes change your understanding of what's happening?

14. On page 144, Lark says, "It's almost as though Stamble and Termite are related versions of something, but Stamble walks around in the world and Termite doesn't." Who is Robert Stamble? Why does Lark see him?

15. Where do you think Termite's new wheelchair really came from?

16. Discuss the flood. How is each character's life affected?

17. Reread and discuss the final Termite passages, on pages 249-250. What is revealed there?

18. Does the novel have a happy ending?

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Reading Group Guide

"Powerful and emotionally piercing. . . . A novel that conjures with goetic ferocity the . . . unconscious almost magical bonds shared by people who are connected by blood or love or memory." —The New York Times

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Jayne Anne Phillips's richly layered new novel, Lark and Termite.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(16)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    All is not as it appears.

    Jayne Anne Phillips has created two complete worlds in her newest book, Lark and Termite. Set nine years apart in both Korea circa 1950 and West Virginia nine years later. While this tends to keep a reader on their toes the author manages to balance the twin story lines masterfully.She also brilliantly captures the horrors of war,"that erupts and lifts it's flaming head" and the day to day struggle of raising a severely handicapped child.
    Although the story line is full of ample examples of haunting memories it also becomes chock full of actual ghosts. I found the closing chapters too abrupt and full of artifice. It was as if the author was tying up all of the plot lines in a neat package and adding a bow with the improbable "motorcycle leaps on moving train" scene.
    But by far the biggest problem I had with this book is a portion that is often overlooked in most works. Ms. Phillips listed the following three individuals in her acknowledgments; Charles J. Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe and Martha Mendoza. They are the Associated Press Team responsible for a Pulitzer winning 1999 series of articles about the mass killing of civilians at No Gun Ri.In these articles it was made clear that the American troops were firing on civilians as a result of direct orders from the US military command. Subsequent investigations proved these allegations not only false but fabricated. In light of these details I find the closing ackowledgment disturbing to say the least.
    In sum I would recomend Lark and Termite as an engaging and thought provoking book. I would also serve it with a healthy dash of salt.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 26, 2010

    Very disappointing read. Not at all what I expected.

    From the write-up on the back cover, I was expecting a truly original book. Unfortunately, it didn't meet my expectations. The characters were not real people characters. The writing style was forced, seemed as if the author was trying to impress the reader instead of telling a good story. The author also seemed to rely on the explicit descriptions of sex to "wow" the reader. In short, this is a book I wish I hadn't purchased.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2009

    Absorbing

    I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates William Faulkner. Ms. Phillips is a master at setting. The Korean war scenes are suspenseful but not overly graphic, and speak to her powerful imagination. The characters, especially Lark and Termite, are skillfully drawn. Termite narrates the most difficult chapters, offering what Philliaps imagines as the perspective of a mentally and physically handicapped child. This book is drenched with emotion and symbolism, and it's ambiguities sound deep and familiar notes. Simply put, a most satisfying read.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2010

    great in almost every way

    this book sometimes vaguely reminded me of faulkner's "light in august" for obvious reasons.

    spectacular writing. poetic. great story re-told from the perspective of its several very real characters. i'm keeping this one.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

    Adult Reading

    Great character development. Very interesting -- the best of the story is at the end but don't read ahead - you need the build-up of the characters. Some pretty graphic sex scenes but just a few. The rest of the book is well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A coming of age drama

    In the last week of July 1950 West Virginia, seventeen year old Lark; her mute younger brother Termite and their Aunt Nonie struggle to survive with none of them having any hope for the near future. Lark is confused by her past starting with her mom who dumped her on her aunt before disappearing and ending with having no idea who her dad is. When she was nine, the infant Termite, who cannot walk or talk, was abandoned on Nonie¿s doorstep.<BR/><BR/>Whereas Nonie is filled with fear for herself and her two charges while working overtime at a nearby restaurant to feed the three of them, Lark raises Termite while his father Corporal Robert Leavitt serves in Korea as the war begins. When Lark attends secretarial school, she soon is paralyzed with fear and despair just like her caretaker aunt as she realizes what Nonie knows that the future is at best gloomy for her or Termite. <BR/><BR/>Four days in July 1950 serve as the basis of this insightful historical character study that enables the audience to look deep inside the souls of the four prime characters and to a lesser degree Lark¿s mom. LARK AND TERMITE is both sad and uplifting as the audience along with the teen understand that she like her aunt has no future and Termite¿s is even less than hers; yet Lark has dreams for her and her ward even though they her subatomic tiny, they matter. Something as simple as a means for Termite to be a bit mobile like getting him a wheelchair though that is a dream as money is only for the basic sustenance of food and shelter. This coming of age drama is not an easy read as there is an overall feel of dismal inevitability to the story line, but even in total darkness little bits of hopeful light shine through.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    The story was good but I found the parts by Termite to be a  lit

    The story was good but I found the parts by Termite to be a  little confusing.   I mean I understood what was going on, but are we to believe he could understand???I would recommend this book, even though it's not the best book I ever read

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  • Posted March 25, 2014

    A Sad Tale

    Reading the book initially was tedious. Confusing at first until the reader understood the writing style.
    Did make for an interesting discussion!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2012

    Chose another book

    I thought this book was going to be rivetting. I couldn't be more wrong. Upset that I wasted my money by neglecting to read the reviews first. Lesson learned! I never leave a book unfinished, I guess I should head the advice of never say never, because this book was so terribly boring that I indeed left it unfinished, even after trying to read it several times. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY! EVEN IF THEY OFFER IT AS A FREE FRIDAY!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    Disappointed

    This book was a big disappointment. It seems it could have been good but it was all over the place.
    The ending was just silly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

    A waste of money.

    This book is so disappointing. Only halfway through, and it's just painful. Save your money.

    Donna Mobbs

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    All over the place

    Not my favorite. I thought it was hard to follow in places, especially during Termite's narratives. I am still unsure of what exactly took place at the end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted May 24, 2010

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    Posted January 13, 2012

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    Posted March 23, 2009

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    Posted October 20, 2011

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    Posted January 9, 2010

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    Posted February 4, 2012

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    Posted November 6, 2010

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    Posted May 11, 2010

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