Zorrie A novel
Book - 2021
After losing both her parents and her aunt, Zorrie is cast into the perilous realities of rural Depression-era Indiana. Drifting west, surviving on odd jobs, Zorrie finds a position at a radium processing plant. When Indiana calls Zorrie home, she finds the love and community that has always eluded her in and around the small town of Hillisburg, but discovers that her trials have only begun. -- adapted from jacket
Deliberately echoing the form of Gustave Flaubert's novella, "A Simple Heart," Hunt celebrates the majesty and depth in a life that may superficially seem undistinguished. Zorrie Underwood is a farmer in central Indiana, and as she and readers survey her 70-or-so years, her joys and sorrows are deeply observed and felt. Raised by a cranky aunt, Zorrie is left homeless at 21, in 1930, and travels though the countryside doing odd jobs for food. Following a stint painting clock faces at the Radium Dial Company in Ottawa, Illinois, she settles in her home state and marries a kindly couple's farmer son, enduring setbacks and grief while adhering to daily routines. With compassion and realism, Hunt recounts Zorrie's story straightforwardly, with setting-appropriate dialogue and an eye for sensory details: the glint of fireflies, the clay soil's rich scent, the "mineral-sweet taste of warm blackberries picked off the vines." Zorrie's relationship with her neighbor Noah Summers, the eccentric protagonist of Hunt's Indiana, Indiana (2003), is presented with expressive subtlety. A beautifully written ode to the rural Midwest. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
Taking an epigraph from Flaubert's A Simple Heart, Hunt's (The Evening Road) novel also concerns a simple, decent character well acquainted with hardship and loss. Zorrie Underwood was orphaned young and spent much of her childhood living with an elderly and embittered aunt who was rarely warm toward her, the harshness of her youth salved only by school and especially Mr. Thomas, her teacher, who heightens her awareness of the natural world. Striking out after high school, she leaves her native Indiana, taking a job painting radium watch dials at a factory in Illinois, where she makes her first real friends among the "radium girls." Returning to Indiana, she comes to live with an older couple, Gus and Bessie Underwood, doing chores and eventually marrying Harold, their son. When Harold is killed in World War II, Zorrie takes over their farm, carving out a life for herself as the years pass by. VERDICT During an early scene, Zorrie and her friends toss flakes of radium paint into the air and stare with wonder at its seemingly miraculous glow. Through an ordinary life of hard work and simple pleasures, Zorrie comes to learn the real wonder is life itself. A quiet, beautifully done, and memorable novel.—Lawrence Rungren, Andover, MA Copyright 2021 Library Journal.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Hunt (In the House in the Dark of the Woods) documents an unremarkable life in this compassionate outing. Though the elderly farmer Zorrie Underwood is in failing health and near the end of her life, she continues working the fields as she has for 50-plus years. Perseverance and an industrious acceptance of her lot are the hallmarks of orphaned Zorrie's existence from birth, as shown by the time-jumping narrative. After the stern aunt who raised Zorrie dies in 1930, when Zorrie is 21, she takes whatever work she can find until she meets the loving elderly couple Gus and Bessie, for whom she splits and stacks wood. Her acquaintance with their upright son, Harold, who runs the family farm, evolves naturally into marriage. With Harold away during WWII, Zorrie bonds with their empathetic neighbor and farmhand, Noah, especially after Harold is killed in action, and it's Harold's memory that stays with her in the decades to follow. As the years progress, Gus and Bessie die, and Zorrie finds joy in a puppy, and forms a strong friendship with her neighbor Ruby. Hunt's storytelling flows smoothly, its rhythms unperturbed by preciousness or superfluous detail. Fans of Kent Haruf's Plainsong trilogy will love this subtle tale of rural life. Agent: Anna Stein, ICM Partners. (Feb.)Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated a plot point and referred to the character Ruby by the wrong name. Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.
Cast adrift in the Depression-era West after the last of her relatives pass away, Zorrie survives by working at a radium processing plant before finding love, community and unexpected loss upon returning to her small Indiana hometown. 60,000 first printing.Review by Publisher Summary 2
Cast adrift in the Depression-era West after the last of her relatives pass away, Zorrie survives by working at a radium processing plant before finding love, community and unexpected loss upon returning to her small Indiana hometown.Review by Publisher Summary 3
Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award (Fiction)From prize-winning, acclaimed author Laird Hunt, a poignant novel about a woman searching for her place in the world and finding it in the daily rhythms of life in rural Indiana.Review by Publisher Summary 4
Finalist for the 2021 National Book Award (Fiction)From prize-winning, acclaimed author Laird Hunt, a poignant novel about a woman searching for her place in the world and finding it in the daily rhythms of life in rural Indiana.“It was Indiana, it was the dirt she had bloomed up out of, it was who she was, what she felt, how she thought, what she knew.”As a girl, Zorrie Underwood’s modest and hardscrabble home county was the only constant in her young life. After losing both her parents, Zorrie moved in with her aunt, whose own death orphaned Zorrie all over again, casting her off into the perilous realities and sublime landscapes of rural, Depression-era Indiana. Drifting west, Zorrie survived on odd jobs, sleeping in barns and under the stars, before finding a position at a radium processing plant. At the end of each day, the girls at her factory glowed from the radioactive material.But when Indiana calls Zorrie home, she finally finds the love and community that have eluded her in and around the small town of Hillisburg. And yet, even as she tries to build a new life, Zorrie discovers that her trials have only begun.Spanning an entire lifetime, a life convulsed and transformed by the events of the 20th century, Laird Hunt’s extraordinary novel offers a profound and intimate portrait of the dreams that propel one tenacious woman onward and the losses that she cannot outrun. Set against a harsh, gorgeous, quintessentially American landscape, this is a deeply empathetic and poetic novel that belongs on a shelf with the classics of Willa Cather, Marilynne Robinson, and Elizabeth Strout.