As the country is still reeling from the Great Depression, Layla finds herself ousted from her privileged life because she refused to marry the man chosen for her by her father. As punishment, she’s banished to an assignment through the Writers’ Project to research and write the history of the tiny town of Macedonia,Virginia. Not believing she will survive in such a backward town, she quickly finds herself living among and becoming entrenched with the family that is at the center of probably the most significant and tragic segment of Macedonia’s history.
This book is written by the author of one of my all time favorite books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. In that former book, the characters jump off the pages and into your heart. The characters here are not quite as striking, but they are certainly vivid and endearing. The author also utilizes a change in voices to tell the story, sometimes from the perspective of Jottie, Layla’s landlord and head of the household and sometimes from the perspective of Willa, Jottie’s niece whom she’s raised. The varying perspectives round out the story to give it a great, 3-dimensional feel.
There is a bit of suspense, there is a bit of romance, but there is mostly just the telling of an emotional story about colorful characters about whom you can’t help caring.
An absorbing read, worth every word!
Sea Glass, by Anita Shreve
Sea Glass is a quietly powerful novel that is centered around the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the growth of unions in its aftermath. It is also a story of honesty and trust and how the absence of both can unravel a relationship. The tale is told from the point of view of different characters who really are the strength of this novel. They are endearing (or not, in some cases) and it is hard not to come to love them for the quirks that make each of them so real. There is Honora, the main character and who is as her name suggests, tragically honorable and who just gets on with whatever it is she is dealt. There is her neighbor and friend, the loyal Vivian, who is rich but generous and kind almost in spite of herself. There is the young Alphonse, who stole my heart just as he’d stolen McDermott’s heart and made me want to take care of him as the tender McDermott had. As these characters are eventually brought together by circumstance, the story becomes woven more and more tightly and the suspense of what is to come rises. Beyond the story itself, the characters’ individual situations also enable the reader to appreciate the extremes of wealth and abject poverty that people experienced during that era (which unfortunately, sound all too familiar after our more recent stock market debacle). The reader is very subtly pulled into the story and held there with such force that you actually want to continue to hold onto the characters after it’s over.
This is a beautiful, albeit sad, story that is beautifully written. Read it!