Just outside a large Midwestern city Louise Washington attempts to hang on to the last pieces of Poplar Farm, which has been in her family for generations, as architect Paul Krovik develops a luxury suburb on tiny tracts around her. Though their creation has cost Paul his family and savings, the poorly constructed Victorian style homes fail to sell, pushing him to the edge of insanity. While Louise and Paul feel like they are losing everything, Boston couple Nathaniel and Julia excitedly purchase one of the suburb's foreclosed homes after Nathaniel’s job moves them to the area. But the family’s idyllic situation soon shifts when their son Copley’s behavior begins to change and he becomes convinced that someone is living in the house with them.
Though he exposes the house’s secrets early on, Flanery fills Fallen Land with an eerie sense of dread that is nearly impossible to shake. That feeling is not caused by spirits or the supernatural, however; it comes from a blend of competition, greed and inevitable failure. Flanery’s characters speak to the American mindset of recent years, constantly grasping for more and eventually feeling the fallout in an incredibly written parallel.
"They do not know the beauty of blackness, the glory of the dark earth. Their lights are everywhere, flooding gardens and houses, blocking out stars. For the first time, I knew summer evenings with no fireflies, as though the creatures saw the light of those blazing houses and realized they were outmatched."
Louise is the callback to previous generations and the single, graceful exception to the excess of the novel's other characters. Instead of writing a bitter woman determined to distance herself from the world, Flanery allows Louise to express her sadness over the loss of both her husband and her land while also creating a close bond with young Copley.
With marvelous passages, well developed characters and a driving plot, Fallen Land has the trifeca that instantly shoots a novel to my list of favorites. Patrick Flanery has penned a book both disturbing and astute that should be penciled in on every summer reading list.