FICTION

Zorrie

Bloomsbury. Feb. 2021. 176p. ISBN 9781635575361. $26. F
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Taking an epigraph from Flaubert’s A Simple Heart, Hunt’s (The Evening Road) novel also concerns a simple, decent character well acquainted with hardship and loss. Zorrie Underwood was orphaned young and spent much of her childhood living with an elderly and embittered aunt who was rarely warm toward her, the harshness of her youth salved only by school and especially Mr. Thomas, her teacher, who heightens her awareness of the natural world. Striking out after high school, she leaves her native Indiana, taking a job painting radium watch dials at a factory in Illinois, where she makes her first real friends among the “radium girls.” Returning to Indiana, she comes to live with an older couple, Gus and Bessie Underwood, doing chores and eventually marrying Harold, their son. When Harold is killed in World War II, Zorrie takes over their farm, carving out a life for herself as the years pass by.
VERDICT During an early scene, Zorrie and her friends toss flakes of radium paint into the air and stare with wonder at its seemingly miraculous glow. Through an ordinary life of hard work and simple pleasures, Zorrie comes to learn the real wonder is life itself. A quiet, beautifully done, and memorable novel.

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