It’s 1942, and the Porters are coming back to Ashaunt, Mass., the piece of the New England coast they’ve always come back to, no matter that the Army is building barracks and viewing platforms there. Graver (Awake) opens her fourth novel with a beautifully evoked glimpse of the very first arrival at Ashaunt—that of the Europeans—and the native people’s eventual sale (or, alternately, “bargain, theft, or gift”) of the land. She then moves omnisciently and believably through the minds of Bea, the Porters’ Scottish nanny, and the wild Helen, the oldest daughter. As 1942 gives way to 1947, 1961, then 1970, and finally 1999, Graver also moves fluidly across time, all on this same beloved piece of land. Bea is a wonderful character, and Graver is incredibly good at evoking past, present, and future, and the ways in which they intersect. Unfortunately, the latter sections of the book, which focus mostly on Helen, no longer a wild girl, and her adult son Charlie, aren’t quite as strong, perhaps because the issues of generational strife, blowback from drug use, and land development are more familiar. That said, Graver’s gifts—her control of time, her ability to evoke place and define character—are immense.
The Porter family, which has summered for generations at Ashaunt Point, a spit of land pushing into Buzzards Bay, MA, is entirely unsettled when the U.S. Army arrives there in 1942. The next generation tries and fails to find escape at Ashaunt Point as Vietnam looms. From Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner Graver; perhaps not the biggest title here, but it's loved in house.
(Starred review.) With a style and voice reminiscent of William Trevor and Graham Swift, Graver's powerfully evocative portrait of a family strained by events both large and small celebrates the indelible influence certain places can exert over the people who love them.
(Starred review.) This multigenerational story of a privileged family's vacations on Massachusetts' Buzzards Bay is as much about the place as the people.... As one generation passes to the next, Ashaunt Point remains the gently wild refuge where the Porters can most be themselves. A lovely family portrait: elegiac yet contemporary, formal yet intimate.
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