Sunday, June 08, 2008

Book Review -- Everything Old Is New Again: Jack Fuller's "Abbeville"

In the midst of the shambles that is our economy, it is sometimes hard to put things into perspective and see that we as a people have indeed been through bad times before. Wearied from news that is relentlessly grim, cynicism is the most likely response to any sentiment that we might have the power to fix what is wrong. Could we really be strong enough to face losing almost everything and wise enough to cling to what is really important? This is a question that Jack Fuller's protagonist, George Bailey, has to face as he finds himself on the brink of financial ruin during the Dot Com Bust. As he struggles to keep afloat, he begins to realize how much his identity is wrapped up in the material wealth he can provide for his family and his customers.

What George wants is clarity. He struggles to make sense of what is happening by taking a pilgrimage back to his ancestral home in Abbeville. Through research and memory, he comes to understand how his grandfather survived the loss of wealth, comfort and influence to financial hardship, war, incarceration, bereavement and betrayal. The result is a narrative that echoes George's cinematic namesake as he finds his grandfather's depth, grace and faith in humanity are rewarded with a life far richer than the one that seemed to be his destiny as he entered adulthood.

Part ripping yarn, part fable of the republic, "Abbeville" is an excellent study of life in America then and now. Fuller's story gives us the vantage point of two men a generation apart who are experiencing the unthinkable at a time when America teeters between absorption in provincial concerns and the cold shock of discovering what moves the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. The prose is spare and beautiful. The story is engaging and rich in the kind of detail that leaves you feeling like you know these characters. "Abbeville" will make you want to connect with the past whether it's by dint of blood relation or heritage of ideas.

For more information, visit the "Abbeville" page at

No comments: