In any small town, it is commonly believed, everybody knows everybody else’s business. This tendency may be snoopy or supportive, but at least it can serve to enliven the quiet surroundings. That may be an unfair stereotype — city and country dwellers generally have the same number of close friends — since small towns don’t prove lacking for character and action when they turn up in fiction, and in that setting the news gets around. So in the fictional town of Fenston, PA (conjured somewhere between Binghamton and Scranton and bearing no relationship to the Broome County community with a similar name) we can find the ordinary and the unusual, the ephemeral and the enduring, tragedy and comedy and troubled characters who will all, at some point, find comfort and support from other people and from the natural setting.
The Fenston Trilogy of Karen Blomain began in 2000 with “A Trick of Light”, continued this year with “The Season of Lost Children” and is projected to conclude in 2013 with “Mechanics of Fire” (working title). Each of these volumes is set in distinct decades, starting in 1955 with the arrival in Fenston of Ben Darling, his marriage to a local girl, the arrival of their daughters and Ben taking a second wife and living as a bigamist before dying suddenly. Katia Darling’s family moves from bucolic Fenston to Hartford, Connecticut and, at the age of eight, following her mother’s death, Katia leaves to live with her uncle Piotr in Warsaw, Poland. “The Season of Lost Children” continues the story with a flashback to a night in 1955 when Father Edward Roderi, a Catholic priest, elopes with a nun. The life of Eddie and Eleanor parallels the seeking of Katia Darling. Katia has returned to America to attend college — her determined detective work led her to choose a college close to Fenston so she could try to reconnect with her family. Eleanor still had moments of depression thinking about the child who was taken from her at birth, presumably to be raised in an orphanage, and before she and Eddie had met and raised a family of their own. They are all seeking to be made whole.
Karen Blomain of Union Dale, PA is the author of several volumes of poetry and, with her husband Michael Downend, the play “An American Wife”, as well as criticism and translation. She conducts writing workshops in many parts of the world, including at the Diplomatic Academy of Moscow and, during 2012, in County Cork, Ireland and Uppsala, Sweden. She joins Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to tell about “The Season of Lost Children” and share tips on writing.