Anyone who follows me over on Twitter has watched me yell in excitement about Scarlett Peckham’s The Lord I Left for the better part of a week. I savored this book slowly (until the end when I couldn’t stop myself) and enjoyed so much about it.
The passage I picked occurrs only a handful of sentences into the first chapter, and there isn’t much context for it. All we know about Henry Evesham’s current situation is that he’s just knocked on the door of a “whipping house” with a “forbidding reputation,” one that he’s visited at least once before. A visit which ended, as we learn, in our hero fleeing from a woman named Alice.
If he was being honest with himself – and he’d vowed to be rigorously honest with himself – Alice, for it was untruthful to pretend he did not recall her name – had glared not because he’d left but because he’d fled, bolting up the stairs and out of the door as if his life depended on it.
(No. Not his life. His soul.)Scarlett Peckham The Lord I Left
Chapters from Henry’s point of view are full of revisions: of his thoughts, his feelings, and especially his desires. This stylistic choice is perhaps most obvious in the use of parentheticals, which will be the subject of a longer blog post eventually. However, it’s also baked into the structure of most of his narration.
If we dig for the heart of the passage above, we find a basic causal relationship: Alice glared at Henry because he fled. The hesitations that Henry constructs around this thought include his degree of honestly with himself, the impression Alice has made on him, whether he left or fled, how he fled, and what the stakes were of the fleeing. It’s almost to the point of an obsession, the way he keeps returning to his own thoughts to qualify or modify them.
So much of this book is about relationships to internal narrative: prayer, conscience, desire, and even music are forms of self-expression and self-silencing, often in tension with each other. Writing Henry’s internal narratives into the sentence structure like this is a great way of bringing that theme to the surface. I can’t wait to write more about this book.