“Haunting, beautifully-written, and heart-wrenching.”—Harlan Coben
With his shattering, extraordinarily affecting debut novel, Light of Day, author Jamie M. Saul made a powerful, incontrovertible statement: a major American writer had arrived on the literary scene. The author of The First Warm Evening of the Year, Saul mesmerizes with the unforgettable story of a small-town Midwestern professor struggling to come to terms with a devastating tragedy and the strange and terrible mystery at its core.
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Light of DayA Novel
By Jamie Saul
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Jamie Saul
All right reserved.
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.
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.
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What People are Saying About This
“Like an arrow to the heart, Jamie Saul’s page-turner novel sears through the psyche to hit bedrock.”
“One of the most satisfying and poignant novels readers will come across this year.”
“A heartfelt examination of one man’s grief with a dark and intriguing mystery pulsating beneath the surface.”
“LIGHT OF DAY is a haunting, beautifully-written and heart-wrenching debut.”
“From its poignant opening chapter to its breathtaking conclusion, nothing about this writer or book is less than extraordinary.”