It’s the height of summer, 1999, when local newspaper, the Record Sun, receives numerous tipoffs from anonymous callers warning of violence, weapons stockpiling, and rampant child abuse at the nearby homeschool on Heart’s Content Road. Hungry for a big break into serious journalism, ingénue columnist Ivy Morelli sets out to meet the mysterious leader of the homeschool, Gordon St. Onge—referred to by many as “The Prophet.” Soon, Ivy ingratiates herself into the sprawling Settlement, a self-sufficient counterculture community that many locals fear to be a wild cult. Despite her initial skepticism—not to mention the Settlement’s ever-growing group of pregnant teenaged girls—Ivy finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gordon
This type of novel may not appeal to all, but having read Chute’s The Beans of Egypt, Maine years ago, I was certainly interested to know what this innovative author had created for her fans. And make no mistake, Chute has many loyal fans, having established herself as an able storyteller who can capture not only the idiosyncrasies of rural life but also the dialog and personalities of characters engaged in real-life dramas in their particular corner of the world. She has a way of looking at life that is offbeat and interesting, a little rebellious and always truthful.
Chute is a true eccentric, without phone, fax or computer, residing in a tiny Maine village. She writes about her concerns from a heartfelt passion and the truths she has learned over a lifetime of observation, her characters a reflection of those who understand the nature of poverty and the value of self-sustenance. She is perhaps the stuff of novels in her own right, pouring herself into her work, her message simple and direct, aimed at those who haven’t the time to look at the lives of those who struggle in a society awash in material things.
That said, I was appalled to see that her new novel was not only long (671 pages to be exact) but peppered with symbols (icons), boldface type separating paragraphs and indicating potential segues. Though not exactly stream of consciousness, the prose is definitely challenging, a thorough reading of this novel something I can’t even contemplate.
I hesitate to call this piece a review, since I have neither the courage nor the desire to wade into this tome, a sacrifice requiring more time and energy than I feel ready to undertake. But I felt it was only fair to suggest that potential buyers read the reviews of others, look carefully through this novel before purchasing it or find it at a local library. Chute is, without doubt, a talented writer and a worthwhile investment; however, the format of this book is extraordinarily difficult to navigate and requires a great deal of patience—or a mind more nimble than mine. It’s a shame, really, because the substance, as described on the Amazon website, is both timely and important in today’s environment. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to get into the spirit of Chute’s novel. For those who embark upon this journey, may you harvest the benefits of her work!