Like all of Cormier's novels, Fade is set in fictional Monument, Massachusetts, a composite of two real Massachusetts towns, Leominster and Fitchburg; Cormier lives about midway between the two. Fade, however, represents a departure from the usual because some sections of the novel are set in New York City; Ramsey, Maine; and Boston; and many years elapse in the course of the novel. Initially the setting is 1938 in Monument, a believably realistic place with specific street addresses, named sections of town, such as Frenchtown and Alphabet Soup, and landmark buildings, such as St. Jude's Catholic Church, Dondier's Meat Market, Silas B. Thornton Junior High School, Monument Comb Shop, Plymouth Theater, and others. Ramsey, Maine, where some of the action takes place is also a fictitious town, which Cormier based on the town of Ayer, Massachusetts, about fifteen miles from his home. The Greenwich Village, New York City, setting is also based upon an actual place, the apartment of some of Cormier's friends who live in Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan.
The novel opens in 1938 when teenager Paul Moreaux becomes a fader (someone who can become invisible); approximately half of the novel is set at that time. The second half consists of the remaining four sections of the novel. The second section, set fifty years later in 1988, focuses on Susan Roget, a cousin of author Paul Roget, in New York for the summer assisting Meredith Martin, Paul Roget's literary agent, by reading his manuscript about Paul Moreaux that the reader has just completed in the first section. The reader learns that before his death in 1967, Roget arranged to have the continuation of the Moreaux story delivered in 1988 to Meredith.
The third section, set in Monument in 1963, introduces the reader to Paul Roget, who continues his story of Paul Moreaux after Moreaux has learned about the existence of the next generation's fader, Ozzie Slater. This section contains flashbacks to bring the reader up-to-date on the Moreaux family from 1938 to 1963.
The fourth section also takes place in 1963, but in Ramsey, Maine, when Paul Moreaux confronts Ozzie. The fifth and final section is set in November 1988 in Boston when Susan has returned to college, but is still trying to piece the puzzle together, particularly after having just read several newspaper accounts which suggest the person responsible for a school fire and an explosion must have been invisible.
Cormier has always been highly praised for the literary quality and style of his novels. The fast pace and suspense make them difficult for the reader to put down. Cormier uses structural devices to create suspense; for example, by dividing Fade into five parts, and by changing narrators, he delays the reader's understanding of the outcome and forces the reader to search for clues and connections between the parts. Also the many real dangers which the characters encounter, as well as the problems associated with the power to fade, create suspense.
To describe the world he has created, Cormier writes in a style particularly noteworthy for its similes and metaphors, its vivid verbs, its conciseness, and its variety of sentence structure; the following description of the Rub Room is but one of many examples:
You opened the door of the Rub Room at the comb shop and a blast like purgatory struck your face. The workers sat on stools, huddled like gnomes over the whirling wheels. . . . The room roared with the sound of machinery while the foul smell of the mud soiled the air.
Another obvious characteristic is Cormier's use of repetition or parallelism, sometimes for contrast and sometimes for reinforcing an idea. For example, two boys lose younger brothers, two sets of twins appear, two women— Rose and Rosanna—have illegitimate children, two bullies fight the protagonists, and two faders disappear in photographs.
Also characteristic of Cormier's novels are some unanswered questions and the open ending, which force readers to make some...
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