The Rest Is Silence by Scott Fotheringham
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Scott Fotheringham
Format: Hardcover, 330 pages
Publisher: Goose Lane Editions
Pub Date: April 13, 2012
The Rest Is Silence is an ambitious debut novel by Scott Fotheringham, a specialist who holds a PhD in molecular biology and genetics from Cornell University.
But, don’t let that snippet of biography alarm or mislead you into thinking that Fotheringham can’t write literary fiction. He can. And he did. And won the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize prior to its publication. And rightly so.
This debut novel, which makes The Rest Is Silence an even more spectacular success regardless of its acclaim through the H. R. Percy Prize award is an intelligent novel with a direct and easily readable tone about complex and serious issues—one of them, environmental activism gone obsessively wrong.
This earthy book is so much more than about a man who exiles himself from the steel and concrete of a city’s metropolis and its polluted ambitions to the far reaches and backwoods of Margaretsville, Nova Scotia.
Yes, the main character literally plants himself in the wilderness with a plot of land he purchased at a good price with nothing more than a camping tent at first, an outdoor stove in place of a kitchen, and a few bales of hay as chairs in an open space dining room. It’s solitude he seeks, a private isolation, and a peace and companionship with nature.
But, his relationships with others also evolves as does his living quarters as he in his quest to build a life and home for himself, builds from his bare hands his own wooden cabin.
There is such a beautiful, yet yearning grief that comes in and out of Scott Fotheringham’s story and narrative, your heart will swell with it like the gush of a tide.
There are two parallel stories and two main narratives: “Bean” with his innate passion and love for nature and his compulsion to create for himself a utopian Eden of nature and personal paradise by surviving not only the old haunts of his past, but the harsh non-discriminatory elements and acts of the weather—and Benny with her resolute and scientific ambition to create a new form of genetically altered bacteria to digest plastic.
Their extremes are polar, yet connected in both their severity and tenacity of purpose, but also in their love and grief. They are historically wounded orphans, belonging only to their hurtful pasts that drive them towards their hard choices and their chosen forms of isolation and dystopia.
While the turmoil of their emotional landscapes grows as painfully slow as the harvest of their plotted soil or colonized petri dish, the ecology of the world itself is “decomposing” at a rate that is biologically hazardous to all.
The narrative is sombre and foreboding, yet as lush and appreciative of nature as if holding to it the intimacy of a microscope and the colour palette and passion of an artist painting a new and imaginative work.
The main characters’ return to their pasts through recollection and storytelling amongst their closest confidants are a vital connection to their reconciliation with themselves, others, and the horror of not only their mistakes, but also their inevitable fates.
It’s not a heart-warming novel as it is more a heart-wrenching one, told with an intelligence, candour, and subdued passion that will often realize the height of its magic in its complex issues, its depth of feeling, its shocking plot, and passionate environmental activism.
On one level, it’s an extremely personal diorama of love and loss and an intrinsic connection and reverence to nature—and on another level it’s a forewarning topography of what can happen when the balance of one’s own desires to work harmoniously with others is radically thwarted or so minimalized it no longer exists.
It’s an evocative book with a sensual richness and surprising ambiguity that will hold your assumptions to account and within its pages of ethereal wisdom, it will also undoubtedly stun you into shock and your own personal silence—one that will reverberate an echo that can only point you to an acute awareness of things easily taken for granted and call you to thoughtful and hopefully intelligent action.
It would be unwise to underestimate this author or his novel. Scott Fotheringham’s work is a wonderful testimony of the persevering spirit, the beauty and redemption found in nature, and the grace found in the acceptance of the nature of things.
Hey! Thanks @ZaraAlexis for the review in your blog. Glad you liked it.
— Scott Fotheringham (@SFotheringham) May 1, 2012
A special thank you to C. R. of Goose Lane Editions for providing me with a media copy of the book in exchange of an unpaid and honest review.
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