On a Philip Larkin jag, I think of his lines as I’ve driving with my 19-year-old up the switchbacks climbing the mountainside from the Connecticut River to Danville.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
We’ve been to see an old man — a doctor and a Zen Buddhist — whom I’ve convinced has answers, actual answers damn it, to the riddle of her and me and her father. My daughter hates the old man. Actually hates him.
It’s December and cold as hell. The sun sparks from ice at the edges of the river where the wide current is just beginning to freeze. The sun is nothing but cold comfort, so low in the sky warmth is merely a memory.
Driving, talking, we pass a particular bend in Route 2 where, decades ago and years before she was born, the Volkswagen bus my daughter’s father was driving broke down on the edge of the road. He had downshifted, stalled, and in that moment, the engine froze and refused to start. For years, the bus was parked behind his sister’s village house.
I stop in Danville for gas and wash the salt and road dust from the windshield, remembering the ugly tan color of that Volkswagen. From here, the road home is familiar all the way. I’m always writing about roads, always writing about journeys, sometimes just down to the post office to open the mailbox to see what’s there — or not.
Staring at the keys in my mitten, I remind myself my daughter’s journey is her own. Or, back off. Then I hold out my hand to her and ask, You want to drive home?
“Unstitched is riveting, compassionate, topical, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. Stanciu, in beautiful prose, takes on the impact of the opioid epidemic on a small Vermont town with the gusto and suspense of a fine mystery novel, and the empathy that only a truly fine observer of the human condition could muster. Highly recommended.”
— Thomas Christopher Greene, author of The Headmaster’s Wife and The Perfect Liar, Founding President of Vermont College of Fine Arts
“Unstitched should be mandatory reading. It is a heartbreaking, raw, tender and revelatory look at addiction and its pervasive grip on ourselves, our families, our communities, and our rural towns. It is also a sublimely written narrative of transformation, vulnerability, discovery and love. This book undid me as I read—taking me into the heart of suffering, revealing my own habits, biases and fears—and then it gathered those pieces together and braided them into something new: a vision of hope, connection, possibility and healing for us all. Stanciu’s courage, generosity, curiosity and gorgeous words are the very best of guides.”
— Robin MacArthur, author of Heart Spring Mountain and Half Wild
“Brett Stanciu writes with enviable poise and precision. Hidden View is a story that burrows deep and stays put. This is a powerful novel.”
– Ben Hewitt, The Town That Food Saved and Home Grown
“(Stanciu”) combines her academic life with her agricultural life to write an enduring story… as rugged as the earth it is based on.”
– Steve Pappas, The Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, Vermont Sunday Magazine
“Stanciu is Vermont through and through. The same can be said of her first novel…”
– Seven Days
“Hidden View is pure authenticity. Every word rings true to this place and its people; I know; I’ve lived here for 45 years.”
– David Budbill, Judevine
“Brett Ann Stanciu can write.”
– The Barton Chronicle