The reader is left to uncover the truth in this labryinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison. Everyone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects domestic abuse. But after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees New York with her infant daughter and seeks refuge in a small coastal town in Maine. The weeks pass slowly, and just as Maureen begins to heal physically and emotionally, Harrold finds her, bringing the story to a violent, unforgettable end.
As she did in her first novel, Eden Close , Shreve opens this absorbing story with oblique hints of a violent event--here a murder committed by a woman in response to domestic abuse--then segues to flashbacks that slowly reveal the circumstances leading up to it. A reporter who wrote a book about the crime shares her notes, presented in alternating versions and voices. Most affecting is the voice of the accused woman, who flees Manhattan with her six-month-old daughter to seek sanctuary in a coastal Maine village where she is protected by the clannish but sympathetic townspeople. She finds temporary solace in an affair with a sensitive lobsterman, but is betrayed to her husband by another man out of jealousy. Shreve is particularly effective in evoking the landscape and atmosphere of a close-knit community and the authentic vernacular of its nicely differentiated inhabitants. Her elegiac, portentous prose provides effective pacing. The novel's main drawback, however, lies in its predictability, and in the lack of credibility for the heroine's violent act, faults Shreve somewhat overcomes by raising the question of journalistic integrity (did the reporter alter her notes?) and the possibility that the accused woman's account might have contained deliberate falsehoods. In spite of its superficialities, however, the novel is often insightful and moving. (Apr.)
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
October 03, 2005
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