In Liza Wieland’s provocative fourth novel, “Land of Enchantment,” we meet Brigid Long Night, a half-Navajo, half-German painter. Young, single and ambitious in 1985 in Taos, N.M., she gives away her day-old daughter Sasha and apprentices herself to Georgia O’Keeffe, whose white hair is “like a moon pierced and leaking out around a face.”
Brigid also longs to fight INERTIA, the brand-name of her Navajo father’s favorite beer.
With O’Keeffe’s encouragement, Brigid develops her own style: using bold, black words like INERTIA with her images of Native American life. O’Keeffe leaves Brigid enough money for art school in New York.
Now it’s 1996, and we meet 17-year-old Nancy Diamond, a budding playwright. When she discovers the can’t-look-can’t-look-away paintings of Brigid’s, she’s able to acknowledge that she’s the daughter of her mother’s affair with a black artist.
Sasha Hernandez, the daughter Brigid gave away, is studying film at Columbia University in New York, where she discovers that her birth mother is a famous painter and sculptor. On a sunny September day in 2001, Sasha heads into Lower Manhattan as the jet planes blaze into the World Trade Center. With her camera, she “catches” the bodies as they fall.
Falling is a major theme here. How we fall into and away from those we love. How we catch and are caught. Or not.
Wieland, who teaches at East Carolina University, is a master of description: “She had a wonderful laugh, complicated, spoons in pottery bowls and glasses touching at the rims.”
In the beautifully entangled “Land of Enchantment,” events unfold on the surface but the novel’s nutrients lie below, in the powerful pulse of art that runs through, and in the connections and disconnections between the characters.
Liza Wieland’s novel is one no serious artist should be without.
Land of Enchantment
Syracuse University Press, 296 pages