This is just a very good novel written by a very good writer at the top or near top of her game. Among other things, this novel feels very modern and less nostalgic than O Pioneers or My Antonia, the former of which I didn’t like and the latter I loved, and the result is charming and sad and funny.
Doctor St. Peter is a college professor who, for circumstances beyond his control, is being removed from his longtime residence in order to make way for another family coming in. He’s annoyed and saddened by the change and kind of mopes and thinks about his life. His wife is sympathetic to a point.
As this change comes about his life, he meets a young man who is looking to enter college, coming from an impoverished Native American background, and who has already made an amazing archaeological discovery and wants to continue this life.
As these two lives intermingle, we get a novel that traces themes of memory, chance/luck, knowledge, privilege, upward mobility, and other ideas related.
What this most reminds me of is the novel “Stoner” by John Williams, another very good novel some 40 years newer, that also traces the life of a midwestern college professor. These would make an interesting study pair to think about how the different lives interplay. This novel just feels so masterfully handled and wonderfully rendered. It’s a strangely plotted novel, at one point dipping into first person away from the third person narrative otherwise consistent throughout.