Be Home Before Dark
This remarkable collection of related poems delivers a series of artful and poignant character sketches through the narrative voice of Adie, a young girl born into a small New England village in the 1940s. Adie takes us on a tour of the alternately joyful, lonely, sad and sometimes strange lives of her village’s inhabitants and she invites us to witness the struggles each person faces while trying to reconcile an often secret life with an official role the community expects.
Adie’s brother Alan can name the capitals of all forty-eight states and can do so backwards in alphabetical order, because he has this high IQ and because he is so lonely.
Her mother Jeanette cries in the Fall because the trees become naked for months, blown only by a cold mean wind.
Adie’s father says we’ve all got a different drummer. He tells her she will know the right tune when she hears it and soon, because he can already see the starlight in her eyes.
Reverend Ellerbee says girls ask for it with their lipstick and see-through blouses. He says they’ll be pregnant by age fourteen.
Faye, the Reverend’s wife, has ashy blond hair, wears sweaters two sizes too small, and can make her hips move without any music.
Dominick, the Reverend’s brother, has water on the brain and grabs the wallet in his back pocket whenever a car goes by because the Japs are coming.
Adie’s elderly friend Jossie says it’s okay to play in the cemetery because the dead need company. They especially need to hear the voices of children.
Traudl Plunket has the biggest bosoms in town because she is German.
Madelaine Lewis is seventy-nine and dances naked on her roof every Fall. She needs to feel nothing between her and God….
With the honesty and clarity of the child Adie pierces the idealistic veil, exposing and illuminating the psychological flaws and strengths of those around her, while trying to decipher the conflicting and often life-altering messages given her by adults.
Reactions from early readers:
Linda Kohler’s Be Home Before Dark is a very rare collection of poems. It is the story of a girl, a family, a community, and a small New England town in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Through the eyes of a young girl, named Adie, the author creates an exquisite series of pieces that reveal characters both complex and true. With insightful and at times ironic observations, Adie reveals the “heat” – the emotional truth – of each situation, and invites the reader to measure its implications for the larger story. In short order, one finds oneself deep in the hold of a story that is both rich and unforgettable.
-Kathryn Dunn, Main Street Writers
Listen carefully to Adie as she shares her story of growing up in a small town. You will find no truer rendering of a place, a time, a family, and a child’s voice than here. This book is a literary treasure. The sensuous rhythms and evocative language of Kohler’s poems transport you to a young girl’s world, where adults can be vain, foolish or wise; where magic lurks in the grass, wind or an angel’s statue; and where everyday wonders and inevitable sorrows stir the heart.
-Jan Gianino, psychotherapist and writer
Through the eyes of a wise and curious girl, these poems capture both a particular era and a timeless landscape. We meet a range of characters from the eccentric family to the oddball townspeople to the personality of the town itself. This girl’s voice is fresh and funny, always honest. She is both wonderfully naïve and knowing. Reading this book took me back to my own childhood and made me wish Linda had been my friend when I was growing up.
-Ann McNeal, poet and writer
With wonderful style and insight, Be Home Before Dark captures a past time and place. It is all there–the oncoming train whistle, the pet duck, the drudgy mill, the scary hurricane, the sometimes quirky neighbors, the rhythm of the local church. Personally, I can testify that truth lurks behind all of it.
-David Mayhew, Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University