Light of Day: A Novel

( 6 )

Overview

Light of Day is a powerful and illuminating novel about love, loss, and the unforeseeable darkness that lurks around the corners of everyday life.

Respected professor Jack Owens brought his son, Danny, to Gilbert, Indiana, to escape a betrayal too painful to endure anywhere but in this quiet midwestern college town. After ten years, Jack believed they were safe. But on a seemingly ordinary day, the world Jack thought he knew and the future he anticipated abruptly come apart at ...

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Light of Day: A Novel

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Overview

Light of Day is a powerful and illuminating novel about love, loss, and the unforeseeable darkness that lurks around the corners of everyday life.

Respected professor Jack Owens brought his son, Danny, to Gilbert, Indiana, to escape a betrayal too painful to endure anywhere but in this quiet midwestern college town. After ten years, Jack believed they were safe. But on a seemingly ordinary day, the world Jack thought he knew and the future he anticipated abruptly come apart at the seams, leaving him haunted by the questions: Why? and What next? Redemption, however, could come with the arrival of an unexpected friend whose prescient understanding slowly helps Jack cope with the unacceptable. But with healing comes clarity—and secrets best left unrevealed by the stark, glaring light of day.

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Editorial Reviews

Orlando Sentinel
“A gripping tour de force that leaves us stunned and breathless”
Denver Post
“An emotional novel about a man whose future has been altered by an unthinkable tragedy.”
Indianapolis Star
“Powerful . . . [An] intense first achievement . . .difficult to put down”
Washington Post Book World
“Exhilarating. . . .One of those debut novels that delivers the goods with style and compassion.”
Chicago Tribune Books
“An intellectual thriller laced with subtle clues throughout its gracious prose.”
Winston-Salem Journal
“Heartbreaking and well-written.”
Bookreporter.com
“A moving and elegant novel that lingers with the reader long after the last page is turned.”
Anniston Star
“One of the most satisfying and poignant novels readers will come across this year.”
Sena Jeter Naslund
“Like an arrow to the heart, Jamie Saul’s page-turner novel sears through the psyche to hit bedrock.”
Jacquelyn Mitchard
“From its poignant opening chapter to its breathtaking conclusion, nothing about this writer or book is less than extraordinary.”
John Searles
“A heartfelt examination of one man’s grief with a dark and intriguing mystery pulsating beneath the surface.”
Harlan Coben
“LIGHT OF DAY is a haunting, beautifully-written and heart-wrenching debut.”
Publishers Weekly
Journalist and TV writer Saul's excellent debut features a grim and compelling narrative marked by individual scenes that feel forceful and dynamic. On a May afternoon, Jack Owens, a professor at a small Indiana college, learns that his 15-year-old son, Danny, has committed suicide. Long divorced from Danny's mother, who abandoned them for the New York artist's life, Jack has nothing but "always the silence, the absence of Danny." Saul sets himself a difficult task-portraying a grieving parent from a close point of view in a way that feels authentic but not suffocating-and he acquits himself admirably in earnest, strong prose: Jack "was lying on his bedroom floor naked, the telephone pressed under his cheek. He was holding on to one of Danny's baby pictures and mumbling to himself.... He could not remember coming down here, or who he'd tried to call, or when." An understated mystery propels the narrative: was Danny's death a suicide, or could it have been murder? What were the reasons for either? Saul subtly offers both clues and red herrings, and he handles the final revelation with control. Though the singular, grieving perspective of Jack can be claustrophobic, this is a gripping, emotionally charged tale. Agent, Joy Harris. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ten years ago, Jack Owens moved back to Gilbert, IN, to raise his son, Danny, in a pastoral setting that would provide some measure of comfort. Jack's wife walked out on them one day in New York City because she couldn't reconcile being a mother with being an artist, and she has since broken contact. Jack is doing his best as a single dad; 15-year-old Danny is by all appearances well adjusted. As the novel opens, Jack, a film professor, is wrapped up in grading final projects before he and Danny head off on summer vacation. Maybe that's why he doesn't notice certain signs and hence is completely taken aback when the local police detective walks into his office to inform him that his son's body has been found, and it looks like suicide. From this pivotal event, Jack attempts to come to grips with the loss of his son and his wife and to figure out what his life now means. Saul's first novel is a powerful look at memory, family, and unexpected tragedy. The characters and readers all grapple with a central question, Which is more important, honesty or loyalty? Recommended for most fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ponderous, quietly affecting debut takes a single father's grief over his son's suicide to surprising turns. At first plunge, there isn't much to recommend this slow-going melodrama. Indiana college professor Jack Owens was too absorbed by end-of-semester grading of his students' films to notice any problems with his son and only child-but then came the grim news of 15-year-old Danny's suicide. The boy's body was found down by the Wabash River in May, apparently by bag suffocation. Jack is racked by guilt, since his wife, and Danny's mother, Anne, abandoned the family many years before, vanishing back into her life as a New York artist, unable to balance her roles as painter and mother. Jack and his son subsequently made a kind of pact that if father and son did their best, and made their sacrifices, nothing bad could happen to them. For Jack, sacrifice meant breaking up with a woman he cared for so that Danny wouldn't be "confused." Now, after the seemingly senseless suicide, Jack grows dejected and dangerously depressed, but eventually opens up to the kindly detective in the case, Marty Foulk, who reveals the details of another apparent suicide some months before, that of a ten-year-old boy. Jack has little to go by except the testimony of Danny's friends, who hint at psychological distress two weeks before Danny's death-just around the time the other suicide took place. Journalist and TV writer Saul moves with excruciating slowness in delineating Jack's grief, almost unbearably so, inserting along the way memories of happier times, when the family was united and living a bohemian life in the East Village; Anne's selfish desertion of the family now seems the fatal cruel blow-and yetJack must endure more grief than he can imagine. On the bland side, but Saul manages to insinuate a clean, edgy ending: overall, a debut with enormous depth of characterization and sympathy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062190932
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 1,026,420
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Jamie M. Saul was born and raised in New York City. He has written for various magazines, including People and Playboy. A two-time guest professor at Yale University, he was the recipient of the Poynter Fellowship. He is the author of the novel Light of Day. He lives in a small town in the Hudson Valley.

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Read an Excerpt

Light of Day

A Novel
By Jamie Saul

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Jamie Saul
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060747528

Chapter One

The road into Gilbert, Indiana, is U.S. 40. It's the old highway that cuts east and west through town, a few blocks north of Main Street. Nobody drives it much these days, nobody who isn't from Gilbert or nearby. Nobody who's in a hurry, and most people driving through Gilbert are in a hurry, tearing across the interstate on their way to somewhere else.

They built the interstate, and the mall that's just off the exit, about thirty years ago. The smaller stores in town would have gone out of business, the larger ones would have followed the money, and downtown would have been a ghost town if not for a few far-thinking people on the city council who came up with the plan to save downtown by turning it into an outdoor shopping mall. Now there are parking lots on the side streets and clean, expansive sidewalks with shade trees and benches so people can sit and talk; so they can spend their time strolling down the street, looking in store windows, shopping and browsing, instead of looking for places to park their cars.

And of course, the college helps keep the town alive. The students and teachers shop in all the stores, eat at the little restaurants, at Paul's just off Main Street, where they serve the tenderloin sandwiches deepfried on a soft bun with bread-and-butter pickles, or the meat loaf and mashed potatoes with gravy that they make at the coffee shop inside the Gilbert Hotel, which isn't a hotel anymore but an office building. Not that Gilbert was ever known for its cuisine or convenient downtown shopping. It's the air that everyone notices, or did until the winds of change blew through town and the EPA helped clean things up.

But no matter which way the wind blows, the air is always tinged with sulfur, one of the by-products of coal, the leitmotif of industrialized Indiana. If not for coal, Gilbert would be just like all the other postindustrial towns--they strip-mine coal out on the east side. It's the coal-burning power plants that keep the lights throughout the state glowing in the night. Most of that coal comes from Gilbert. But it's the sulfur that does the trick.

In sunlight it turns the air sepia, like an old daguerreotype photograph or a silent movie. The rose tint and warm brown hues look so soft and welcoming, you'd like to crawl in, pull them over your head and hide from the coming millennium. You might even think the past isn't such a bad place to step back into. Then you see the old-timers, who look like they've stepped right out of that past, hobbling down Main Street wrinkled and weathered like old leather, emphysemic and broken down, like hard times, gnarled and grizzled. It makes you think your times aren't so bad after all.

Highway 40 crosses Highway 41--another old road which heads all the way from Chicago to Miami, Florida--over by Third Street, then runs past the railroad tracks by the Wabash River and across the nameless bridge that shakes and sways, like the hammock you hook to a couple of trees at the end of May and don't take down until the leaves start to turn in late September. But if you're not in too much of a hurry, when you get to where the highways intersect and you look south you'll see the ruins rising like an apparition.

The ruins stand in grand decay on the rise of a slow hill above the muddy banks of the Wabash in Fairmont Memorial Park. It's just a façade, a replica of the Parthenon never fully realized. It was going to be the new post office back in 1936, when the WPA workers came to town. They went to work on the college first, built the Fine Arts building and laid down those beautiful brick sidewalks, and gaslights, and the grassy quadrangle, designed by some long-forgotten architect in love with eighteenth-century England. Then they moved their gear to the river and started working on the ruins and the park where it stands.

Sixty years later and all the bricks are pockmarked and broken. The corroded Doric columns strain to support the majestic entrance. The four splendid windows are sealed with cinder blocks, braced against the damp river air. A bas-relief of the American eagle--about to take wing across eternal America--stares stoically past the broken patio and rotting cement steps. Anachronistic and decrepit, the ruins are a monument to a past that was, if not efficient, certainly ambitious.

People from town, students from the college, come out to the park to sit in the shade of the sycamores, and on the steps of the ruins; lie in the grass by the river with their girlfriends; lean against the solid walls and think the private thoughts people think when their lives are falling apart or coming together. When they need to resolve their worries, or piece together their plans. It's the quiet place they come to when they want to spend time doing nothing, or nothing more exciting than watching the river flow, thinking about their good luck or recent misfortune. When they need to feel the comfort of the past. Or when there's no place left to go. This is where they found the body.

Continues...


Excerpted from Light of Day by Jamie Saul Copyright © 2005 by Jamie Saul. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

Respected professor and noted author Jack Owens brought his son, Danny, to Gilbert, Indiana, to escape a past and a betrayal too painful to endure elsewhere. In this quiet midwestern college town Jack believed they'd be safe to start over -- and for ten years, it appeared to be so. But on an ordinary-seeming day at the end of a semester everything changed in an instant -- a moment transformed by tragedy into the bitter realization of a parent's worst nightmare.

The world Jack thought he knew and the future he had anticipated for himself and his boy has abruptly come apart at the seams, leaving him broken and haunted by the twin, life-shattering questions Why? and What next? Redemption, however, could come with the arrival of an unexpected new friend -- a local detective tormented by his own personal demons -- whose world-weary sympathy and prescient understanding slowly help Jack to cope with the unacceptable.

But with healing comes clarity -- and secrets best left unrevealed by the stark, glaring light of reality. For Jack Owens, the toughest road back to life winds through inhospitable country, where memory taunts and misleads ... and the shocking truth about what drove one exceptional teenager to commit an unthinkable and irreversible act hides in the shadows.

Author Jamie M. Saul's Light of Day is a brilliant, powerful, and illuminating masterwork of literary art -- a story that shines with lyrical, tragic beauty that will long linger in the mind and the heart, immediately elevating its creator into the upper ranks of contemporary American novelists.

Questions for discussion

  1. Two of the overriding themes of this novel are morality and personal ethics, verbalized by Danny's question: "Which is more important, honesty or loyalty?" How do Jack, Anne, and Danny deal with this question?

  2. How does the author use the opening chapter to establish the themes of the novel?

  3. How does Jack's friendship with Lois compare to his friendship with Marty?

  4. In a classic tragedy, the protagonist's strengths are inseparable from his weaknesses. How does this apply to Jack? Is he a weak or strong man?

  5. Are Anne's reasons for leaving Jack and Danny justifiable, or should she have subordinated her needs to those of her husband and son?

  6. Why doesn't Jack try to contact Anne after Danny's death? Is he keeping the "deal," is he afraid to show weakness, is he truly unable to track her down, or is this an act of selfishness?

  7. The themes of ambivalence and irony are prevalent in this novel. How does Jack's ambivalence about Danny's birth influence his decisions before and after Anne leaves? How does the irony of Danny's motives for his suicide – he was raised with a value system that gave him guidelines for "doing the right thing" that created the conflict that he could not deal with -- weigh on Jack? What are other examples of ambivalence and irony in the book?

  8. Jack's life is one of self-denial. How does this affect his relationship with Maggie? Is he honest about his reasons for breaking up with her? Is he being "loyal" to Danny? Is he punishing himself?

  9. What is the author trying to establish when Jack imagines seeing an ocean liner rising from the field (pp. 260-261)?

  10. Is Jack's leaving town and allowing an innocent man to be charged with murder an abandonment of the principles of his "deal," or are they part of it. How does this apply to Danny's question about honesty and loyalty? What does this say about Jack's relationship with Marty?

  11. What will Jack do after he leaves Gilbert? Will he continue to persevere?

About the author

Jamie M. Saul was born and raised in New York City, where he currently lives with his wife. After earning his bachelor's degree from Indiana State University, he was awarded a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. His short fiction has been published in Calypso Literary Journal and he has written for People and Playboy magazines. Saul has been a two-time guest professor at Yale University, where he was the recipient of the Pointer Fellowship. Light of Day is his first novel..

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2005

    Wow what a book..

    Great book! Finished it in one night! Extremely moving and heartwrenching. Looking forward to more from this writer.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    Light of Day ends Dimly

    Jamie Saul's LIGHT OF DAY was an excellent read, very intense story line, rich characterization. However, if you want everything neatly wrapped up at the end - this book is not for you.
    The book ends much like a segment of one's life prepares to transition; however, for me - the reader, there was too much left 'unfinished'.Still recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2007

    wonderful story of love and loss

    This was the most heartbreaking, true to life novel I've read in a long time. Anyone who doesn't love this book has never been in love or suffered a loss. This book is a marvel of human understanding. Can't recommend it highly enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2006

    Disappointing!

    Not what I expected. I can never not finish a book, but I came close on this one. It was dull & plodding. Finally in chapter XXI there was a ray of hope, but the ending still falls flat. I just didn't get it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2005

    Exquisitely rendered, deeply moving

    Jack Owens, a college professor in a quiet Indiana town, has built the best life he can for his teenaged son, Danny, in the dozen or so years since Danny's mother abandoned him to pursue her career as an artist. Danny, too, has worked hard to be 'good,' doing well in school and developing his skills as a pianist. But when Danny is discovered dead, apparently by suicide, Jack is forced to reexamine the decisions and beliefs that led the two of them to what seems to have become a state of quiet despair. Jamie M. Saul displays a mastery and depth that are quite startling to encounter in a first novel. The pacing of this book never falters as Jack's thoughts circle ever closer to the center of his grief--the departure of his wife years ago, when Danny was just a toddler. For anyone who has experienced a loss in his or her own family, this book will provide countless moments of stark recognition. For everyone else, Light of Day offers a window into the human soul. This is truly a remarkable debut.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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