This is a series of interrelated stories about families in a small Maine fishing community. It follows them all, the ‘haves‘ and the ‘have-nots‘ over a span of time from 1907 to 2017. The characters are related by blood or marriage.
First I have to say that the writing was touching in its authenticity. A beautifully written narrative told through multiple narrators, this did not feel like a novel at all.
The setting is one that I can easily relate to and have visited many times. I live in Nova Scotia and Maine is less than a hundred miles away as the crow flies. The book astutely described the weather during the long Maine winters and believe me, you can’t live in this area of the world without the topic of the changeable and volatile weather entering the conversation at some point.
“Above the reach, low clouds sleepwalk across the February sky. Today they are fibrous, striated, like flesh being slowly torn from bone. It’s four in the afternoon and already night has started chewing away the edges of the day.“
The stories follow the characters through all of life’s milestones. Childbirth, marriages, parenting, betrayals, terminal diagnoses, divorces, scandals, funerals, shame and loneliness – lots of loneliness. It follows families who love each other and others who can barely stand to stay in the same room as one another. It showcases the insular nature of some small communities, and how one family’s loss or disgrace can radiate throughout the community having profound affects on multiple generations. It highlights how years of resentments and feeling of encumbrance can build enough to break you. How some people really should never have children…At times the writing can get very dark, with the resentments, frustrations, and unhappiness oozing from the narrative. Other times are more light-hearted. My favorite characters were the French born Liliane and the recently deceased Alice.
Above all this book is imminently memorable with some scenes that have seared themselves onto my consciousness.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, wholeheartedly. Though be warned, if you are looking for something with a definitive beginning, middle and end you will not find it here. Like memory, it cannot be followed in a linear fashion.
All in all, this is an astounding writing debut.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel at my request from Flatiron Books/Macmillan via NetGalley in order that I might participate in this blog tour.
ISBN: 9781250776488 – ASIN: B088DQZMYV – 240 pages
Available for purchase on March 2, 2021 from the following booksellers:
W.S. Winslow was born and raised in Maine, but spent much of her working life in New York in corporate communications and marketing. A ninth-generation Mainer, she now lives most of the year in a small town Downeast. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French from the University of Maine as well as an MFA from NYU. Her short fiction has appeared in Yemassee Journal and Bird’s Thumb. Her first novel, “The Northern Reach,” will be published by Flatiron Books March 2, 2021.
Follow Wendie Winslow on Twitter: @WSWinslow