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by Jane Hamilton

Category: Fiction / General
462 pages; ISBN: 0-7862-3159-9

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


Seventeen year old Henry happens into his mother’s email account one day where he discovers that she is having an affair. Henry is both fascinated and repelled but compulsively follows the romantic story as it unfolds by continually accessing her email. Beth met Richard at a family wedding and became infatuated by his rugged, dark appearance immediately. She couldn’t get him out of her mind. Richard’s exotic past in war torn Europe enchants waspy Beth who hails from a comfortable New England background. Henry’s father, Kevin, a history teacher, seems oblivious to the troublesome circumstances.

Beth travels to Tribbey, Wisconsin where Richard lives in a small cabin and makes violins. She does this over and over sometimes three times per week. Once she even took her children along. “I (Henry) was standing on the pavement at Tribbey, wavering still, wondering how I had come to be in Wisconsin staring at the stranger who was known to me.” Henry is worried about what the future holds for his family when or if his father or sister find out. The reader gets into the mind of a teenager and he struggles with unfamiliar feelings including shame for his mother and pity for Kevin. Later Henry finds himself falling in love with a nubile teenager, Lily, and comes to understand the pull of sexuality. His thirteen year old sister, Elvira, obsessed with Civil War enactments, is too distracted to think of anything else.

Beth comes to realize that Henry knows about the affair and tries to talk to him about it before he goes off to college. “Before she could make her statement, I said firmly, `Mom.’ Saying her name like that made her close her mouth. I wanted her only not to go farther, not to begin. I wanted to hold her off at the pass indefinitely. `This may come as a surprise to you,’ I said, `and it’s with all due respect and everything. It’s just that, actually -- ah, actually, I don’t want to know one detail about this year. If you don’t mind’.”


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