By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
Fos and Opal find each other serendipitously, since neither would have been a great catch. Fos was nearly blinded by mustard gas in WWI, which sometimes hindered his work with bioluminescence and radium; Opal was a spinster and lived in back country North Carolina. They met while Fos was going home to watch the Perseid meteor shower on the Carolina coast. They settled in Knoxville; Fos and his war buddy Flash opened a photographer’s shop. On weekends, they went to county fairs and showed off the newest sensation—X-rays! They never did well in their photography business, but it wasn’t until Flash got in trouble with the law that they went bust. Their son, Lightfoot, was their pride and joy when their knowledge led them to help form Oak Ridge. Lightfoot tells the rest of the story, trying to figure out what happened to his parents. He finds Flash in prison, and learns more about his parents. When Flash is released, they travel together across the country. At the end, Lightfoot too, finds love serendipitously, but on the west coast.
I found this book compelling and intriguing. I am relatively new to Tennessee and knew nothing about the history of Knoxville. Fos and Opal have a great relationship. I never knew that X-rays were county fair material. There is a fuzzy, cloudy quality to the words, partly I suspect to show how Fos saw the world. He sees how cloudy or soft light reflects on and off things and people. Luminescence in many forms plays a role throughout the book. This is a satisfying story of a loving couple living and working in the early 1900s in Tennessee, and their son who finds his way to adulthood almost alone.