by David Huddle
“What do you think the movie of your life would be?” asks Ms. Hazel Hicks, a proud, articulate woman without vanity. Her nephew, John Roberts, captivated by the mystery of such a uniquely serious person, sets about making the metaphorical movie of her life. What emerges, through found documents, photographs, interviews, and a sequence of narratives, is a moving story of his aunt’s long, paradoxical, Vermont life.
Published: June 1, 2019
“David Huddle introduces Ms. Hazel Hicks, a maiden lady of a certain age, and as improbable a literary hero as has come along in many years. Hazel puts the ‘lone’ in ‘loner.’ She is eccentric, solitary, severe, humorless, discontented, self-absorbed, and nearly invisible to others in her family and milieu. Hazel’s would seem to be the life story of one who has no life. Nevertheless, owing to her creator’s utterly assured, sympathetic, multifaceted story-telling, she is never a tragic figure, or even a pitiable one. Rather, she appears with the contradictions, self-inflicted wounds, (and blessings) the reader recognizes as belonging to life. Don’t miss Hazel Hicks. She may try you, she may frustrate you, she may exasperate you. But you will not forget her.” —Castle Freeman, Jr.
David Huddle’s twenty-first book, Hazel is a portrait of a woman both ordinary and exceptional, composed in glimpses of her life from child to elder. Hazel is a loner and somewhat of a pill. Although she’s not likeable in the regular ways, she’s rigorously honest in the way she examines her world, and in relationships with a few other people. Hazel’s nephew John Robert is captivated by the mystery of such a uniquely serious person. He assembles episodes from Hazel’s life, and the novel reveals a lifelong struggle by someone whose integrity is absolute. Huddle proves the complete life of almost anyone would be profoundly complex if seen whole.
David Huddle is the author of more than twenty previous books, including fiction, essays, and poetry. His novel Nothing Can Make Me Do This (Tupelo, 2011) won the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction, and his Black Snake at the Family Reunion won the PEN New England Award for Poetry. He teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English and the Rainier Writing Workshop. A native of Ivanhoe, Virginia, Huddle has lived in Vermont for over four decades.
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When Felton asked her to go to the Golden Gloves, Hazel asked him to tell her more. She was fifteen. She’d never heard of Golden Gloves and didn’t know what they were. When he explained, she was mildly interested and said yes. He’d asked her as if they were pals and did things like that together all the time. But of course they weren’t and they didn’t.
Hazel wouldn’t have allowed herself to think so at the time, but she could hardly bear most of the people around her. Or for that matter most aspects of her life. She thought the misery she felt all the time was her fault. Felton’s invitation was the first evidence she’d had that somebody her age might want to do something with her.