Affairs of the heart, murder, suicide, riot, gossip, politics, heroism, cowardice—Witless bubbles over with the passions of life. Two peoples settle in a small town in Southern Wisconsin, in the middle of the nineteenth century. The first are fun loving and free-spirited. They build the town’s dance hall and saloon. They love, they dance, they play cards, they pull off pranks, and they build their dreams. The second are the congregation of the Church of the Bridge, who pursue austerity in this world and anticipate paradise in the next. Hubert Dartmouth, their founder, is struck by lightning, survives, and commits his life to censuring worldly pleasure. His son and grandson each take the leadership of the Church and pursue the same end with the same ardent fervor. The conflict between these peoples begins as inconsequential friction but grows over a half a century to erupt into an explosive conclusion.
Set against this background is the love story of Arthur Woodaepfel and Anna Baird-Langdon. He is a teacher, determined to provide his students life-enriching experiences. She is a dancer, the wife of a farmer, and his co-conspirator. They share a passion for progressive education and find a devotion to each other in the isolation this imposes. Their bond is inevitable, and leads inevitably to catastrophe.
Witless is an engaging story that sweeps forward from situation to situation with humor and energy. Underneath that story is a thoughtful exploration of the consequences that must follow when divergent cultures fail to find compromise. Changing the setting of a problem can bring perspective and insight. Cultural conflict, where compromise is illusive, is a vexing issue for our time. Witless transposes cultural conflict to another time, place, and people, and builds a story on it—a story you’ll find convincing and satisfying.