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Hap and Hazard and the End of the World, by Diane DeSanders.

July 1, 2017

hap and hazard and the End of the World
Hap and Hazard and the End of the World, by Diane DeSanders. 
New York: Bellevue Press, 2018. FORTHCOMING

5 stars

A moving novel narrated by a young girl growing up in and around Dallas after World War II and recounting the fears and confusions adults all bring from their childhoods.

Diane DeSanders is a fifth generation Texan who writes with great awareness about what Texas was like immediately after World War II, at least for some members of successful Dallas families. She has spent much of her life teaching history and doing theatre, and this is her first novel.  Her sensitive power of observation makes it an enjoyable and insightful book.

The story is told through a young, insecure girl just starting school when her father returns from the war crippled both physically and psychologically.  The girl loses her monopoly on her mother’s love, and soon two younger siblings appear.  Both sets of grandparents are comfortably well off, but for the narrator the world seems fragile.  She doesn’t know whether or not to believe in either Santa Claus or God. Each chapter relates a separate incident, building to an understanding of why the girl feels so unworthy and unwanted. One is about Hap and Hazard, the family dogs, and “the end of the world” hovers in narrator’s stories throughout the book.

The genius of DeSanders’ writing is the way in which she brings adult readers into the remembrance of childhood vulnerability that continues to haunt us all.  Her words are sparse, often understate, and powerful.  For a sample of the story, go to http://centerforfiction.org/magazine/fiction/nip-and-tuck-and-the-end-of-the-world-by-diane-desanders/.

I didn’t grow up in Dallas, but across the Red River in Southern Oklahoma. Yet I recognized the places and the attitudes in this book.  Perhaps most of all I belong to the same generation of women who grew up in the shadow of war, not directly hurt like many were, but shaped by it anyway.  DeSaunders captures childhood in the shadow of war amazingly well.

The Bellevue Press which published this book is a small publisher associated with the NYC Medical School.  They focus on books that bring together the humanities and sciences.  Perhaps they chose to publish this book because of clarity and beauty with which it takes us into the mind of a child in such significant manner.

I strongly recommend this book.

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