Lark & Termite
by Jayne Anne Phillips
Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 2009, 272 pages, $24
Jayne Anne Phillips’ new book, which focuses on two six-day periods in July, explores the endless boundaries of familial love.
In 1950, Cpl. Robert Leavitt, a Jewish kid from Philadelphia, takes leave of his pregnant wife to fight in the Korean War. Nine years later, Leavitt’s children, Lark and Termite, face different struggles. Termite, Lark’s younger stepbrother, is severely disabled and can not walk or speak. The story focuses on Lark’s undying devotion to her younger brother and the care that she selflessly gives to him. At the same time, the novel follows Leavitt’s story as he travels with a group of South Korean refugees at No Gun Ri, site of a future controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning story by the Associated Press.
As the book progresses, the different family members explain their history of losing loved ones and devotion to each other.