Evidence of Things Unseen

A Novel

Evidence of Things Unseen

  • 1
This poetic novel, by the acclaimed author of John Dollar, describes America at the brink of the Atomic Age. In the years between the two world wars, the future held more promise than peril, but there was evidence of things unseen that would transfigure our unquestioned trust in a safe future.

Fos has returned to Tennessee from the trenches of France. Intrigued with electricity, bioluminescence, and especially x-rays, he believes in science and the future of technology. On a trip to the Outer Banks to study the Perseid meteor shower, he falls in love with Opal, whose father is a glassblower who can spin color out of light.

Fos brings his new wife back to Knoxville where he runs a photography studio with his former Army buddy Flash. A witty rogue and a staunch disbeliever in Prohibition, Flash brings tragedy to the couple when his appetite for pleasure runs up against both the law and the Ku Klux Klan. Fos and Opal are forced to move to Opal’s mother’s farm on the Clinch River, and soon they have a son, Lightfoot. But when the New Deal claims their farm for the TVA, Fos seeks work at the Oak Ridge Laboratory—Site X in the government’s race to build the bomb.

And it is there, when Opal falls ill with radiation poisoning, that Fos’s great faith in science deserts him. Their lives have traveled with touching inevitability from their innocence and fascination with "things that glow" to the new world of manmade suns.

Hypnotic and powerful, Evidence of Things Unseen constructs a heartbreaking arc through twentieth-century American life and belief.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743258098 | 
  • June 2004
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Reading Group Guide

Evidence of Things Unseen 
Marianne Wiggins 

Week 1: pg 3-115 
1.  Flash quotes Thomas Jefferson saying that all men are made of "poetry and mud."  How would you interpret this statement?  How does it reconcile Fos' memory of the young man in the battlefield who described making love to Emily Dickenson in his dream as "flying with your arms around the neck of a swan." 
2.  In The Evidence of Things Unseen, Marianne Wiggins continues this extended metaphor on beauty and light.  How does Fos' theory (p.13) explain or prove his desire for Opal? 
3.  How has Opal's new role as Fos' wife change her view of herself?  What makes her insecure in her abilities? 
4.  On page 95, Opal goes on a mental rant about catfish in Tennessee.  How's does Early's death relate to the abundance of catfish?  Why do you think Opal makes the reference at the end of "The Curve of Binding Energy (2)"?   
Week 2: pg 117-259 
1.  Fos ponders the infinite possibilities of love on p. 119.  Why do you think such a man of science who rejects religion would have such an unscientific view of love?  What is it about love that is particularly interesting to Fos?  
2.  Wh see more

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About the Author

Marianne Wiggins
Lara Porzac

Marianne Wiggins

Marianne Wiggins is the author of seven books of fiction including John Dollar and Evidence of Things Unseen. She has won an NEA grant, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and she was a National Book Award finalist in fiction for Evidence of Things Unseen.