Review of Fanny Howe’s Saving History


Recently, I picked Fanny Howe’s novel off my shelf.  I’d been meaning to read this book for years. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. It is wonderful, the narrative, the meandering poetic prose that fluidly moves from interior to exterior,  from one point of view to another,  dialogue erupting out of action that twisting and turning and always progressing.   A mystical wandering woman, Felicity, with two children, one deathly ill—she wanders in and out of other people’s lives, often abused or sheltered by men who are confused or seeking their own salvation or destruction.  The novel takes them across the country from Maine to San Diego and into Mexico where she is tempted to transport body parts in order to save her younger daughter’s life.  The story is political and mystical. Characters are involved with communism, politics and criminal plots.  There is a nightmarish tone.  But then Felicity draws her little girls closer to her as she wonders about the meaning of life.  Often she seems to make the wrong choices in terms of creating a stable home for herself and her children.  Here there is no way out of suffering, except for the moments of love, the love between mother and child, brother and brother, sometimes man and woman, and, of course, the love for the poetic phrase and Howe’s vision of the amazing ever changing ever screwed up ever beautiful world. At night after reading Howe, I  dreamed about thin ice, dark coats, ice skating, and the final reunion between the main character and her family.