America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Imaginary Review by Jack Belck
6 January 2016
Midnight’s Sunshine, Wanda Buchanan's first novel, explores in a brisk and emotively effective way the varieties of familial relations and their discontents during twenty-two chapters of exciting and heart-felt moments.
After dropping out of Bryn Mawr, the Wamsnart family’s oldest daughter, Hoover, rests for a time at West Virginia's Pence Springs Prison for Women. She had erred by slapping a gas station attendant in Parkersburg over a dispute about whether she had or had not tried to pay for Regular when she'd pumped Premium.
She swears to forgo her distempered ways while driving an elderly Pinto whose radio pulls in one FM station until the wind blows away the coat hanger wire antenna and the car coughs its last in downtown Hicksville, forty miles west of Pittsburgh.
Working as a waitress at Ally Bigh's Restaurant, Hoover thrives–despite marginal skills–on her personality and a Barbie doll face perched atop a body short of breast and long of hip. She comes to modest maturity attending the town’s Anger Management and Basic Computer Skills program.
This is where she meets and marries Sam Adams Buchanan, graduate of the community college's Arts program and now lead interior decorator for updating two municipal soup kitchens.
Time passes and the reader learns about teen daughter, Coolidge, who refuses to take Plane Geometry in high school because she hates Aeronautics and insists instead on spending her free time at the computer. Recently discovered prehistoric steles had proven to be covered with hieroglyphics containing the words to many Cro Magnon songs.
These, Coolidge decides, need to be set to Rock music. Despite demonstrating mastery of pop’s idiom–especially lyrics–she fails to connect fully with her courses and graduates only because of even greater mastery on the basketball court.
After these loving entanglements, we meet eight-year-old daughter, Fillmore, already hyperkinetic and convinced she'd gone through an in-womb sex change experience. She is comforted by an elderly Croatian monk refugee sponsored by the International Coptic Agnostic Assembly. He is being lovingly sheltered by the Wamsnarts as he toils at the difficult task of translating his memoirs into Flemish.
The entire clan is held together firmly yet with great warmth by Garfield, husband of one, father of all, who had been wonderfully humanized by two Peace Corps years in Las Vegas. The conjoining of these so-different beings with their conflicting but entwined emotions, needs and hopes makes for a spiritually rewarding journey.
Midnight’s Sunshine is sure to especially please fans of my wife Fortuna's biting seriocomic novel, Three Shades of Phlegm.
Jack Belck is a retired university publications editor who recently started writing for fun again. His work has appeared in The Atlantic and Manhunt.