Evidence of Things Unseen
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Fos has returned to Tennessee from the trenches of France. Intrigued with electricity, bioluminescence, and especially x-rays, he believes in science and the future of technology. On a trip to the Outer Banks to study the Perseid meteor shower, he falls in love with Opal, whose father is a glassblower who can spin color out of light.
Fos brings his new wife back to Knoxville where he runs a photography studio with his former Army buddy Flash. A witty rogue and a staunch disbeliever in Prohibition, Flash brings tragedy to the couple when his appetite for pleasure runs up against both the law and the Ku Klux Klan. Fos and Opal are forced to move to Opal's mother's farm on the Clinch River, and soon they have a son, Lightfoot. But when the New Deal claims their farm for the TVA, Fos seeks work at the Oak Ridge Laboratory -- Site X in the government's race to build the bomb.
And it is there, when Opal falls ill with radiation poisoning, that Fos's great faith in science deserts him. Their lives have traveled with touching inevitability from their innocence and fascination with "things that glow" to the new world of manmade suns.
Hypnotic and powerful, Evidence of Things Unseen constructs a heartbreaking arc through twentieth-century American life and belief.
Read an Excerpt
On the night that they found Lightfoot, the stars were falling down.
All along the pirate coast the lighthouse keepers cast their practiced eyes into the night, raking dark infinity with expectant scrutiny the way the lighthouse beams combed cones of light over the tillered sea.
Over the Outer Banks, from the eastern constellation Perseus, shooting stars like packet seeds spilled across the sky, tracing transits of escape above the fourteen lighthouses from Kitty Hawk and Bodie Light to Hatteras and Lookout.
It was the yearly August meteor shower and Fos had driven out from Tennessee across... see more
Reading Group Guide
QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
Week 1: pg 3-115
1. Flash quotes Thomas Jefferson saying that all men are made of "poetry and mud." How would you interpret this statement? How does it reconcile Fos' memory of the young man in the battlefield who described making love to Emily Dickenson in his dream as "flying with your arms around the neck of a swan."
2. In The Evidence of Things Unseen, Marianne Wiggins continues this extended metaphor on beauty and light. How does Fos' theory (p.13) explain or prove his desire for Opal?
3. How has Opal's new role as Fos' wife change her view of herself? What makes her insecure in her abilities?
4. On page 95, Opal goes on a mental rant about catfish in Tennessee. How's does Early's death relate to the abundance of catfish? Why do you think Opal makes the reference at the end of "The Curve of Binding Energy (2)"?
Week 2: pg 117-259
1. Fos ponders the infinite possibilities of love on p. 119. Why do you think such a man of science who rejects religion would have such an unscientific view of love? What is it about love that is particularly interesting to Fos?
2. When Flash's brother comes into the studio, Flash's past begins to unfurl and lead Opal to speculate Flash's motives and intentions. In Flash's brother, Opal sees "Chance". What is it about the see more