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Book Review: 'In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden'

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In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden

Current Status:
In Season
Kathleen Cambor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

We gave it an A-

In 1889, Pennsylvania’s South Fork dam burst, flooding the countryside with a 70-foot-high wall of water and killing over 2,200 people. This magnificently imagined novel opens hours before the tragedy, then widens its horizons to limn the two worlds the dam divided: Overlooking it was the ritzy South Fork Club, built by and for real-life steel industry magnates like Henry Frick and Andrew Carnegie (portrayed meticulously but not always animatedly here). Below the dam lay the tight-knit steel mill city of Johnstown, the setting for Cambor’s more vivid storytelling — like the passionate affair between strike organizer Daniel and pampered Club regular Nora. Despite some unavoidable similarities to Titanic’s watery cataclysm of class consciousness, In Sunlight possesses a luminous, unsentimental artistry all its own. A-