Down East tearjerker from second-novelist Corey (Losing Eddie, 1993) about the bittersweet marriage of a young mother in a Maine coastal town.
Stonington is one of those pretty little New England harbor villages swamped with vacationers during the summer and quiet as a church on Monday for the rest of the year. Elizabeth Johnson’s childhood there is largely uneventful until she’s 14, when her mother Doreen, a famous skater, is hit in the face with a stray hockey puck and horribly disfigured. Doreen becomes a recluse, removing the mirrors from their home and refusing to go out in daylight. The tension takes its toll on the entire family. Elizabeth’s painter father spends less and less time at home, and eventually meets a Boston art dealer vacationing in the area, falls in love with her, and then takes off without a word of explanation. Doreen dies not long after, and Elizabeth is essentially on her own in the world. Like anyone young and inexperienced, she makes mistakes, the first being Frederick, a married architect who comes to Stonington from New York the summer that Doreen dies. Elizabeth becomes his lover and discovers after he has left town that she’s pregnant. So she marries kindhearted Michael, a local fisherman, and gives birth to Frederick’s child, followed by two of Michael’s. Although obsessed by Frederick for years, Elizabeth eventually settles happily into domestic life with Michael and her children—until, 12 years later, Frederick returns to Stonington alone. All of Elizabeth’s pent-up longing erupts, and the two fall into each other’s arms. Frederick even asks Elizabeth to run away to New York, leaving Michael’s children behind. What will she do? Don’t spend too much time thinking about the answer.
Although Corey’s prose is quite understated, The Skating Pond is basically a bodice-ripper with a formulaic plot, two-dimensional people, and a connect-the-dots ending.