Cover image for The story of a million years
The story of a million years
Huddle, David, 1942-
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Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Physical Description:
190 pages ; 22 cm
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In his first novel, David Huddle tells a delicately nuanced story of relationships between men and women that is as old as human history itself. It begins with a startling secret affair between fifteen-year-old Marcy and the husband of her mother's best friend. Years later, the emotional fallout from the affair still echoes in unexpected ways through the lives of the people closest to Marcy: her husband and the couple who have remained their friends since high school. A multilayered tale unfolds through their eyes, in which each character seeks to recapture a kernel of long-forgotten goodness. In the tradition of John Updike and John Cheever, Huddle renders these complex relationships with clarity and depth. "For grownups with brains," said Richard Bausch of Huddle's earlier work. The same is true of The Story of a Million Years, a novel written with poetry, wisdom, and a masterly sense of humanity.

Author Notes

David Huddle has taught literature & creative writing at the University of Vermont since 1971. His poetry, fiction, & essays have appeared in "Esquire," "Harper's Magazine," the "New York Times Magazine," "Ploughshares," & "The Best American Short Stories."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Huddle is such an accomplished short-story writer and poet (see p.58), the triumph of his first novel comes as no surprise. Supple and incisive, it's a composition for seven voices in which friends, lovers, and spouses candidly and tolerantly consider both their own failings and the disappointing but ultimately forgivable foibles of their loved ones. It all begins with a curious affair between Robert, 41, and Marcy, the willing 15-year-old daughter of his wife's friend. He adoringly introduces her to sex; she smoothly calls it quits after meeting Allen, a boy her own age. They marry right after college, and stay closely tied to Allen's best buddy, the ever-generous Jimmy, who, crazy about Marcy, marries her best friend, Uta. As each character speaks their mind (and there are some unexpected narrators), Huddle erects an elegant house of mirrors that illuminates their visions of themselves and of each other. These reflections cast light, too, on the countless checks and balances that preserve friendship and love, and on the loneliness and ambivalence that persist, even within the closest relationships. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Already an accomplished writer of short fiction (Tenorman, Intimates, etc.), Huddle applies his story-writing skills to this shimmering debut novel, which traces the protracted, subtle fallout of an affair between 15-year-old Marcy Bunkleman and 41-year-old Robert Gordon, the husband of her mother's best friend. As the book opens, an adult Marcy recalls the relationship years after it has ended, in a voice so clear, so sure of itself, that readers may be jarred when in the second chapter Marcy's point of view is abandoned for that of her husband, Allen Crandall, who knows nothing of the affairÄor indeed, of much else concerning his wife. Subsequent chapters unfold like short stories or brief character sketches, with first-person narratives from the perspectives of other people linked to Marcy: Robert, his wife, the Crandalls' daughter, their best friends from college. Huddle effortlessly creates seven distinct voices, inhabiting each character convincingly and completely. Few of these people have any knowledge of Marcy's secret past, leaving them free to meditate on their own disappointing loves, but the affair nevertheless becomes a kind of powerful black hole, exerting its gravitational pull on everyone's perception of Marcy whether they realize it or not. The shifting viewpoints can make for a fractured, glancing narrativeÄa significant death and a significant divorce both occur offstage, for instanceÄbut the multiple voices also create surprising dimension and texture in a slender novel. Like a shattered mirror pieced painstakingly together, every shard captures a different angle. Huddle sets the narrative in Cleveland, where Marcy grows up, and in D. C., where she settles, but the setting is really incidental; the real action takes place internally. It is this inner terrain to which Huddle is most sensitive: the ways we reconcile or fail to reconcile ourselves to our moral lapses. His view of the human condition brims with wisdom, compassion and a rare grace. Agent, Bill Clegg. Author tour. (Sept.) FYI: The first chapter, "Past My Future," appeared in Best American Short Stories 1996. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Actually, this is the story of some 20 years, told through seven discrete voices about lives intertwined, often intimately. The first narrator, really the pivotal character, is the beautiful and focused Marcy; others are her eventual husband, the vain A.B.C.; her best friend, Uta, who shares a dance-floor intimacy with A.B.C.; Uta's husband, Jimmy, who is A.B.C.'s best friend and is deeply in love with Marcy; businessman Richard, who had an affair with the teenaged Marcy while he was in his forties; Richard's wife; and, finally, Marcy's daughter. It could be argued that this first novel from award-winning poet/storywriter Huddle isn't a novel at all; plot is minimal, and the chapters (although sharing a theme about moments of selfless goodness) could stand alone. Still, the shared experiences and the different "selves" that the varied voices bring to them build to a rare complex reality, and the faceting and near-perfect prose give this reality a lustrous sheen. Highly recommended for quality fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/99.]ÄRobert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 Past My Futurep. 1
2 Past Perfectp. 22
3 A.B.C.p. 33
4 The Story of a Million Yearsp. 60
5 Goodnessp. 93
6 The Lessonp. 107
7 Girly-Man Recapitulatesp. 124
8 Summer Afternoonp. 148
9 Newsp. 170
10 Silk Dressp. 173