Our except happens to take place in a 1924 Buick. Put the novel on your list for the summer.
From The End (Graywolf, 2008)
By Salvatore Scibona
Used by Permission
Sixty years later, Mrs. Marini was riding in the rear of a car that crested the last of many gradual slopes and began its descent into the murky predawn countryside of the Cuyahoga River valley. She had not traveled outside the city limits since the summer of l905, when Nico had taken her on a train to a resort hotel in Sandusky. A quartet had played on a dais in the hotel dining room. All of the better restaurants still employed real musicians at that time. The two of them ate the most succulent galantine of duck, and waded in the lake, and slept under a silk coverlet in a light, airy room.
The old car in which she now rode had once ineptly aspired to the middle class (the imitation marble of the footboards was actually linoleum), but, judging from the racket inside and the indefatigable jolting of the machine at every speed, it had long ago learned its place. However, she was not an authority. Lina sat in front, and her Vincenzo guided the car through the mud and gravel of the uneven road. They had been married for seven years.
The car suffered the inclines terribly: The engine made pitiful screams and repented the affectations of its youth and begged Enzo’s forgiveness; but he was immune and pressed it onward. Nico, Mrs. Marini recalled, had always treated their horses with humanity and grace.
She wished one of them would turn around and talk to her. Her throat emitted a harsh noise to no avail. The car was a 1924 Buick Roadster. She had tried to forget this useless datum and therefore had failed. In general she considered it extravagant that urban working people should own cars, but this was only a clamorous old thing with rubber patching in the canopy, and Enzo did the repairs to it himself. The young couple lived in a hot-water two-bedroom apartment, a clean place of recent construction in Elephant Park, five blocks from her house. The three of them often went on excursions to hear live music played or so that Mrs. Marini could buy Lina something pretty downtown, while Enzo smoked in the department store lounge and studied the newspaper. Enzo offered to drive but always eventually deferred to her preference for the trolley.
Mrs. Marini tilted her eyeglasses so that the stems pinched her temples and the image outside came into focus. She hoped that a hardy agricultural scene would alleviate her present cynicism, but what she beheld was not agriculture. Agriculture was the domination of a landscape by the hand of man. What she saw were budding woods that crowded to the edges of every open place as though a barricade held them back from the orchards and the shorn acres of pale, busted stalks and mud. (It was April.) Every meadow, in its squareness, manifested a persistent human attention. It was evident out here that Ohio had recently been a single, dense forest, open only where the rivers drained it, and would rather be so again. Even from the faces of the bluffs, the trees protruded, laterally. She was living in a barely domesticated country. Certainly there were those who found, in the same scene, a grid of cornfields plundering the poor, wild trees, but her priorities were the other way around. Savages and sylvan paradises did not interest her, even in literature. She was a city girl. She wanted to read about civilized people corrupting one another. She did not want your Zane Grey. Give her a swimming pool, and it’s poisoned. Setting was ancillary. Who poisoned the swimming pool? That was what she wanted to know.
Yet as the trip wore on she perceived in spite of herself a more and more powerful intuition of, of—what was the word? she was unsure there was a word—of here-ness. Providence had brought us here, to this of all places, to our remote country. No, but it had nothing to do with the Constitution or the Battle of Bull Run. History, politics, culture, those were her mind’s milieus, and they could not have been more impertinent to this queer intuition, which was neither purely a product of her thoughts nor of the place itself. Fog rose from an anfractuous river that flickered through the beams of a covered bridge they crossed. The spirit of the place pressed itself against her senses, but she was not the kind of creature that was capable of letting it in, of becoming an unconscious part of a vast, unconscious whole. The result was a feeling of sharp physical pain at the base of her neck that rose up the back of her skull, as though a malignant hand were petting her. She was separated, by virtue of being a conscious animal, from the rest of creation, which was unknowing and therefore complete, and therefore irrevocably real. The trees were both in the place and of it. But to know that one was here was to be an awareness amid the limitless unaware; it was to be in a place but never of it, like a pearl in a cake.