THE SOCIETY REVIEWS: Norman Lock's TOOTH OF THE COVENANT
Norman Lock's American Novels series uses American literature as a lens through which to examine our national history, culture, character, ideals, and failures. To say that American Follies involves Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Feast Day of the Cannibals involves Herman Melville, and The Wreckage of Eden involves Emily Dickinson makes for an accurate statement that nevertheless fails utterly to convey the unfettered imagination and narrative energy that drives each novel. In the series' eighth novel, Tooth of the Covenant, Lock explores the weight of familial legacy, the intersection of individuals with their eras, and the power of storytelling. It begins in 1851 as Nathaniel Hawthorne sits in his Massachusetts farmhouse blaming his great-great-grandfather John Hathorne, an unrepentant participant in the Salem witch trials, for his own lifelong shame and melancholy. In the manuscript called Tooth of the Covenant that comprises most of Lock's novel, Hawthorne dispatches a fictional alter ego he names Isaac Page to wreak vengeance on the judge and cleanse the family name. Isaac uses a mysteriously powerful pair of John Hathorne’s spectacles to travel back to 1692 Salem, but his mission goes immediately awry. Plagued by eye pain and dreams of Satanic rites, he morphs from an enlightened rationalist to a man no less cruel and intemperate than the judge he has been sent to confront; in the end, both Isaac Page and his creator, Nathaniel Hawthorne, are the rueful recipients of some useful if sobering lessons. American cruelty and religious intolerance is of course a painfully grim subject, but Lock's clever voice, shapely prose and shrewd observations help lighten the story's mood, and the novel's look at intolerance couldn't be more timely. Tooth of the Covenant is available now on Amazon.com, Bookshop.org and other platforms.