The Landscape of Time

The Landscape of Time


Dr. Robert Kirk’s Book Review

At a recent book-signing event at Barnes and Noble on Santa Rosa's Fourth Street, authors Lois Foyt and Jon Foyt quickly sold out all copies of their novel, The Landscape of Time. Lois and Jon moved to Santa Rosa from Santa Fe a couple of years ago. Both Stanford graduates, they are art collectors when not penning fiction; in fact, their gorgeous home is filled with museum-quality European and Asian bronzes.

The Foyts are a fascinating couple well worth knowing. Their novel is well worth reading. Most of their previous books were set in the Southwest, but Jon traveled to Syracuse, New York to research for "Landscape." The setting is the Erie Canal, in the early 1800s—and today.

Columbia University doctoral candidate Josh Foreman is searching for a dissertation topic. His grandfather dies and he travels to the ancestral mansion in Syracuse to settle the estate. There he meets a cast of characters, including the woman of his dreams. Not only does his dissertation topic come into focus but he learns deep and compelling family history, family secrets. Josh's journey is one of self-discovery and discovery of his roots. Josh learns about his grandfather's motives and deeds, and about the father from whom he has been alienated.

"Landscape" is based on historical fact. Intriguingly, the Foyts compel the reader to refer to eight footnotes; these are letters and diary entries from 1797 to 1825; they provide essential historic background to the story. One ought to read these notes carefully to see—for example—how Governor De Witt Clinton was seduced into promoting the Erie Canal. This is a compelling book—top recommendation.

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Dr. Robert Kirk is the author of Pitcairn Island, the Bounty Mutineers and Their Descendants: a History. He is Past President of the World Affairs Council of Sonoma County, a visiting Professor of History at Sonoma State University and, most recently, the lecturer on a cruise tour of the Mediterranean and the Greek Isles. He is currently writing a history of the South Pacific.

A Millennial Leafs Through a Family Tree

The authors, Lois Foyt and Jon Foyt, have successfully written The Landscape of Time with one Millennial voice, that of their protagonist, who shares with the reader his gaining awareness of humanistic pluses and minuses.

Twenty-four-year-old Josh Foreman steps into a tangled valley of two hundred years separating and connecting himself with his ancestors. When he is told of the death of a grandfather he never knew and that he is the sole heir to the estate, Josh finds himself in a “swamp” of family intrigue, a lawsuit, a historic house and a competing heir. Fortunately Maggie Sullivan, a perspicacious newspaper reporter, offers him a rescuing hand.

The authors accomplish the wedding of ideas, motivations and actions of present-day Josh and Maggie to Joshua and Margaret, his paternal ancestors of two hundred years ago through a unique literary maneuver. The novel has Endnotes, which cite letters, diary entries and speeches from the early 1800s to parallel the plot and storyline of The Landscape of Time.

One comes away from this novel wanting to climb aboard a packet boat on the Erie Canal and float across Upstate New York to contemplate the meaning of life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Review by Stanley Wiseman, Editor, Millennium News Service

A Drama/Comedy of Family Origins and Erie Canal Legacies

The Landscape of Time by Lois Foyt and Jon Foyt offers a timely narrative that centers on PhD student Josh Foreman, who leaves a flailing thesis proposal on the history of American transportation when a grandfather whom he has never met bequeaths to him an ancestral home in Upstate New York.

While the story begins in the bustling academic halls of Columbia University, it quickly journeys to Syracuse, where Josh discovers a public controversy over his late grandfather's alleged theft of folk art and monetary funds from the local art museum, where he served as curator.

As Josh struggles to resolve the contemporary mystery of his grandfather's tarnished reputation, he also must unravel his family history, dating from an early nineteenth-century ancestor's stewardship of the Erie Canal to his own father's involvement in anti-integration rallies in the 1970s.

From the moment he steps off the train in Syracuse, Josh is variously thwarted and aided by a cast of characters that includes a local journalist and single mother, an African American reparations activist, a slue of lawyers and private eyes, a paralegal who knows everything about everyone thanks to her savvy online research skills, and a shifty Evangelical reverend with a gambling addiction.

The Foyts contextualize this postmodern drama/comedy of family origins and American legacies with an array of references (ranging from slavery to climate change). In the process, they reveal to us that the "Millennial" generation of Americans must confront the long history of race relations, geographic expansion, and global commerce that has shaped the United States while, at the same time, shedding the past in order to create a sustainable future.

Review by Allison Carruth, Stanford PhD

Literary critic, writer, and environmental studies scholar

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