The Gloaming, by Melanie Finn
Words By LeeAnn Adams
Rarely do I find a novel that captures my everyday thoughts. Quite often I read works of literature that I find entertaining enough for the moment; but I can leave them unfinished for months without feeling as if I’m missing out on something. This is not the case with Melanie Finn’s The Gloaming. It’s so gripping and awe-inspiring that it’s completely unforgettable.
The Gloaming has been described as a literary thriller. While I find this to be true, I think it is far more than that. It’s an expat narrative possessed by spirits and grief and the enduring dance of life and death. It’s about the complexity of love—about the elusiveness of hope.
The story centers on Pilgrim Jones, an American living in Switzerland with her husband. At the end of the first chapter, there is a foreboding feeling, as if all is not right in their relationship. It’s not unbelievable to the reader when Jones’s husband abandons her. In the aftermath, she is the cause of a tragic accident, leaving her physically injured and emotionally distraught. This leads to a series of events that forces her to flee to a tiny outpost in Tanzania, near the Kenyan border. Along the way, she meets many people who are as forlorn as she is. However, no physical distance can prevent Jones from facing the truths of her former life and, when the signs of a curse spook the residents of the outpost, Jones cannot eliminate the possibility that her past will soon catch up with her.
The novel alternates back and forth between the past and present, Switzerland and Tanzania. Each short installment adds to the tension. One of the great pleasures of the book is the daring way that Finn plays with structuring a novel—and for that reason I will not spoil it by revealing the method.
Suffice it to say that this is one of the most exhilarating, heartbreaking, and haunting novels that I have ever read—and I’ve read a great deal. Few other writers could rival Finn’s exquisite prose. The characters feel so intensely alive—like they could vanish from the pages and reappear before you, breathing and wild-eyed. Her setting descriptions are dead on. The dialogue feels as natural as a mountain stream. The plot leaves you guessing, wanting more, not quite finished with the story when you’re forced to turn the last page.
Finn’s work is a masterpiece of literature. The characters will linger in your thoughts long after you close the book. Don’t expect to read The Gloaming and come away unfazed.