A first novel is a delicate object, to be appreciated simply because a writer managed to make it. And I do appreciate Susan Dodd's accomplishments in "No Earthly Notion." This creative writing instructor at the well-known Iowa school displays her competence as structuralist, mood setter and illustrator of character.
She presents Murana Bill, an orphaned young woman who takes it upon herself to care for her younger brother, Lyman Gene, when he returns from World War II an emotionally disabled veteran.
Sister is devoted to Brother in a way that recalls the Victorian era. Rather than idealize the relationship, as the Victorians would, Dodd shows how it can go wrong.
Lyman Gene never leaves the house or utters a word, though he has no physical impediment. He turns sullen, sluggish, obese, tyrannical. Murana accepts it all.