Maria Flook‘s Lux is an offbeat novel, which I enjoyed quite a lot. One part mystery, one part fairy tale, and one part nod to Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, this book draws the reader immediately into the wild and beautiful world of life on the fringes of Cape Cod.

At the core of this book is instinct–the good and the bad: That to nurture, to mother, to scavenge, and to prey. Alden Warren exemplifies these instincts, not only with her desire to take on a foster child (much like one animal will foster another baby animal in the wild) but also in her relations with men:

Left on her own, Alden had opened her door to suitors, but they were just “filler” until Monty returned. She sometimes believed that she brought out the predatory and, even worse, the scavenging instinct in these men. Men would gladly pick over her bones, feeling no responsibility for what had befallen her. That was her husband’s fault.

Beside Alden in instinct, is Lux–the man who secretly loves her and who also killed her husband, out of a sense of protection and desire. He acted out of instinct and yet, since birth his instincts have been skewed incorrectly: When he is under stress, he freezes. He is like a deer in the woods that stops moving when it spies a hunter, making itself a perfect target. Alden seems to be the one person who can break through his catatonia.

The sense of place of this novel is at once familiar (and beautiful in that familiarity) and yet otherworldly. I would go so far as to say that without all of the trappings of modern life, this narrative could easily have taken place in the 19th century, which is it’s special charm.

With narration that leaves the reader wondering what is real and what is fancy, with odd but carefully crafted characters, and with gorgeous descriptions, this book will stick with you long after you have reached the end. Read it.

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