Wise Men: A Novel
“Wise Men is a powerful tale dealing with familial dysfunction and racial differences, touching the heart of raw human emotion with insight and depth.”
Arthur Wise, starting a law practice in the late 1940s, is determined to crawl out of poverty and create a name for himself.
He and his wife Ruthie and son Hilly live in a rented rundown home in New Haven, until in 1947, when a plane crash changes his life. Arthur institutes a class-action lawsuit for the families who perished in the disaster, which causes the airlines to go bankrupt—and makes Arthur very rich.
Purchasing a cottage in the small village of Bluepoint at the tip of Cape Cod, Arthur settles his family there in the summer of 1952. Hilly befriends Lem Dawson, the black handyman of the original owner, who has stayed on to work for Arthur. Only 17 and bored, Hilly follows Lem around while his mother constantly shops and his father conducts business from home.
It is during this summer when Hilly meets Len’s niece, Savannah, and becomes strongly attracted to the young black woman—an attraction considered taboo for this era. Hilly sees how both Lem and Savannah live in poverty, embarrassing him for his family’s wealth.
One night Savannah shows up, claiming she is running away. Hilly, clearly besotted, begs her not to go, though she is determined to leave the father who gambles every penny and does not provide her with a stable home.
Lem, worked to death by Arthur all summer, is found secreted in a sand dune reading Hilly’s father’s legal documents. Hilly argues with him when he won’t tell Hilly where Savannah is, and then in anger, informs Arthur about Lem having his papers. The authorities come and Lem is imprisoned only to be murdered jail. Hilly blames himself and for many years becomes obsessed with finding Savannah’s whereabouts.
As time passes, Hilly ages, refusing contact with Arthur. At odds and barely speaking, each is angry about long-kept secrets. Hilly wants to atone for Lem’s demise and locate Savannah. He cannot get her out of his mind and wonders if he can ever forgive his father or if Savannah will ever forgive him.
Wise Men is a powerful tale dealing with familial dysfunction and racial differences, touching the heart of raw human emotion with insight and depth.