Illumination Night

Vonny, the young wife, tries to shelter her tiny son from the outside world. To her lasting misfortune, she herself becomes the victim of a sudden onset of agoraphobia, which chains her within her small home. Silent, strong, and puzzled, her husband Andre falls in with the plans of the love-struck teenager, Jody, next door.

Jody’s grandmother, powerless to control the child-woman in her home, revels in the excitement of the girl’s vibrant lustiness. When Jody begins an affair with a handsome but reclusive giant who is farming a nearby homestead, this modern fable resounds with the dark yearnings and cruel reversals familiar from myths and tales. One especially moving passage recounts the decline and death of the grandmother. The saddening themes of death and separation contrast effectively with the enlivening combination of giants, old ladies, children, and domestic routines.

Hoffman, the well-regarded author of several previous novels, transforms the numbing repetitions of daily life into illuminating visions of healing and survival. With utter simplicity, she inspires heartening reflections on the unexpected potential in babysitting, driving, child care, and other chores. Without sentimentality, this deeply engaging novel offers a contemporary twist on the old adage about light at the end of the tunnel.