Dominion by Calvin Baker

Maud Newton started discussing Calvin Baker’s novel Dominion last year. Since she made it sound so good and since Maud’s taste and mine are freakishly similar (her end of the year list overlaps might at least 6 times), I dutifully added it to my TBR pile, but it lingered there for a long time. Finally, right before I left for Bolivia, I started reading this book, but I had to put it down when I left, but I thought about it the entire time I was away. I mentioned before the books I read—only two of the four did I enjoy. How I wish I had Baker’s novel to finish! I picked it up the minute I got home, even though it was late and I hadn’t slept in about a day.

Jasper Merian, a newly emancipated slave, leaves behind his wife and son in Virginia at the beginning of the novel for the free territory in the west. There he begins to carve out a utopia in the Carolinas, building a thriving estate he calls Stonehouses, with the help of a new wife Sanne and their son Purchase. Eventually the son he left behind Magnus escapes upon the death of his mother. Magnus settles down on the farm, while Purchase, a blacksmith by trade, wanders the colonies in pursuit of a woman. Their son Caelum is sent to live at Stonehouses as the pair chase each other.

I find myself thinking about this book often, although I finished it weeks ago. Is it the archaic tone that Baker uses? The mix of myth and religion—the two are intertwined here—-parts of the novel feel like the Iliad and other parts feel biblical. Yet this style, which feels old, seems new too. Check this book out at your local book store. I hope you find it as captivating as I did.