The Vanishing Sky by L. Annette Binder - June 2020
Last month I posted on a deeply moving short story by L. Annette Binder ,”Lay My Head”, from her award winning debut collection, Rise. Here are my opening thoughts on this profound story.
My earliest reading memories are of being read fairy tales. Long ago our youngest daughter saw an edition of The Complete Fairy
Tales of the Brothers Grimm on my book shelves years ago and asked if she could keep on the shelves in her room. She still has it booked marked so I know she is reading it.
One of the associations in literature throughout history is that of beautiful people with goodness and unattractive, ugly people with evil. You see this every where from the latest popular novel to the great works of literature. I increasingly think this, as it is mostly women who are described as beautiful, represents the deeply pervasive image of women as commodities for men to consume. This prejuduce runs so far down into our consciousness that most repudiate my idea. Illness as it changes appearances away from standard notions of beauty is seen as a manifestation of evil within the person, either an ancient curse or inherent malignancy coming out for the "beautiful" people and their admirers to fear. These are part of what I see as themes of "Lay My Head".
I was very happy and gratified to be given the opportunity to read an advance review copy of her forthcoming novel, The Vanishing Sky. The Vanishing Sky is set in 1945 in Germany as the country’s defeat is inevitable. The story centers on the Huber family.
The central character is Etta, mother of two young men.Max is in the army, serving on the Eastern front. Her younger son, Georg is in the Hitler Youth. He is not quite old enough to fight the coming America invasion,he is very devoted to the German cause and is being prepared for the final stand. There are lots of bombing raids, in one very moving scene Georg and other boys find a body in a bombed out building. As things get worse her husband Josef becomes ever more nationalist, oblivious to reality.
Their son Max returns from the war. He has suffered serious mental harm. He wants to back to fight but his mother tries to hide him from Nazis rounding up soldiers. There is a very
powerful Holocaust related scene.
The Hubers are just an ordinary Family caught up in a nightmare. Just sort of people that have died in wars for thousands of years, to no point.
The Vanishing Sky is a fine work of art. There are many subtle touches that create a cinematic feel of perfect verisimilitude. It conveys a strong sense of day to day Life in Germany as the war ends.
“I was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado. Like many immigrant kids, I learned my English from primetime TV and the Saturday morning cartoons. My parents spoke to me in German, and -- to their dismay -- I started answering in English before the boxes were even unpacked.
The Vanishing Sky, my first novel, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury and Bloomsbury UK in June 2020. It is inspired by my family's experiences in World War II Germany.
My collection of stories, Rise (Sarabande Books), received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Literature. My fiction has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, One Story, American Short Fiction, The Southern Review, Third Coast, Fairy Tale Review and others.
I have degrees from Harvard, UC Berkeley and the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. I live in New England with my husband and young daughter”
I give The Vanishing Star my total endorsement.