Cadie Kessler is an entomologist, and it is her turn to protect the forest. New England is the “canary in the coal mine” with its problematic migrating vegetation and ever shifting habitats. The forests are being destroyed by beetles whose telltale blue fungus, the color of the autumn sky before sunset, stains wood everywhere. Even Bicknell’s Thrush, Cadie’s favorite the tiny songbird, has all but disappeared. Her findings describe the extent of the damage, and there could be ramifications if they are published because she went onto restricted federal lands to make observations and gather samples. As academia discusses what to do about her conclusions, a nearby wildfire rages through trees killed by the infestation.
Dalton places readers in the midst of New Hampshire geography with multi-sensory descriptions: the reedy flute of a distant hermit thrush, the wind stretching the clouds like raw cotton on a comb, the rusty tips of dead pine trees, the dull grays and browns of granite, streaks of silver and layers of radiant amber, and the brownie-batter mud.
A second story-line, a tragedy from the past, unfolds in alternating chapters. It is no longer possible to pretend that the long-ago summer never happened, and the past reaches into the present for a resolution. It is time for people to grow up and start over. If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, what is the opposite of covering up a murder? Does one moment define a person’s life, or is destiny determined by what one does after that?
“Waiting for the Night Song” balances environmental activism with a secret from the past that must be resolved. Oh yes, there is that fire with embers floating in the purple air like fireflies. I received a review copy of “Waiting for the Night Song” from Julie Carrick Dalton, Macmillan Publishing and Forge Books. It is not a book in my usual reading category, but it was a nice change; it is an enchanting story with an environmentally friendly message.