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The Great Unknowable End: 05/10/19

The Great Unknowable End

The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee is set in the summer of 1977 in Slater, Kansas. It's told from two points of view. There's Stella who lives in Slater, and there's Galliard who was born and raised in Red Sun, the nearby hippie commune.

Stella and Galliard are both trapped by circumstances, though Stella sees her situation as more dire, stuck in a small town with no options because of her grieving father. Her brother has left home for Red Sun, not able to handle the reality of their mother's suicide the day after the moon landing.

Galliard, meanwhile, believes in Red Sun and its founder. At the start of the novel, he wants to be the artist of the commune. There's only one position. But he sees himself as a protector of the commune, and one who is also protected from the dangers of the outside world.

Early in the book Galliard and Stella meet and their friendship ends up expanding both their horizons in unexpected ways. Their alternating points of view, their feelings of entrapment and the need to protect makes them a scarecrow and minotaur combination. While minotaurs and scarecrows can be singletons in the American Road Narrative (99).

All of their meetings, though, is set against an eerie countdown and various Biblical style events: strong winds, blood colored rain, agitated and sickly animals. But the most frightening element is a projected countdown timer that is omnipresent in the town. This countdown gives the need to escape a hair raising urgency.

The destination is home (66). In this case it's a starting point for both protagonists. Home rather than being the thing they are seeking, it's the thing they are hoping to escape. Even Galliard comes to change his mind about the apparent eutopia of the commune.

Finally there is the route away from home and that is the cornfield. Red Sun is an agrarian commune. Stella works at an aging drive in theater that abuts corn. (FF). In this novel, the cornfield is acting as a barrier for the main characters. Initially it is a prison for Stella and a safety net for Galliard. Later, though, its meaning for both flips as the narrative unfolds.

Five stars

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