The privileged summer of a prosperous family is shortened by a bullet in the night.
Courteously observing dramatic unities, Oprah-blessed Bohjalian (Midwives, 1997; The Buffalo Soldier, 2002, etc.), America’s answer to Joanna Trollope, sees to it that the jammed rifle in the back of Vermont lawyer John Seton’s borrowed Volvo goes off to critical effect when it’s fired by 12-year-old-going-on-16 Charlotte McCollough into her father’s right shoulder. The great irony in this suavely perceptive story is that novice hunter Seton’s bullet had been intended for a deer, a deep dark secret hitherto kept from the brutally winged Spencer McCollough, Seton’s brother-in-law and the public face of FERAL, an animal activist organization. Spencer has been vegan since repenting of the murder of countless lobsters as a kitchen laborer during his college years, and his dedication to the well being of animals is deep and long-standing. That dedication, Bohjalian politely points out, has not always extended to the animals in his own herd—wife Catherine, a meat-sneaking Brearley instructor, and daughter Charlotte. In fact, his vegetarian rigidities and professional absences have so distressed Catherine that she was ready to discuss separation just before the pot- and beer-befuddled Charlotte fired the rifle at what she thought might be the deer that had ruined that summer’s ambitious vegetable garden. Nan Seton, Catherine and John’s immensely energetic, capable, and prosperous mother, manages the immediate effects of the crisis, which occurred at her New Hampshire cottage, but she is helpless to patch the rift that develops between the families of her two children when Spencer refuses to forgive his deeply repentant brother-in-law and allows FERAL to push for publicity and a lawsuit. The balance of power rests with Charlotte’s younger cousin Willow, a real sweetheart who’d shared that spliff with Charlotte hours before the disaster.
The finely drawn scenes and characters here will suck in all but the hardest-hearted. Pretty much irresistible.