EVERGREEN by Rebecca Rasmussen


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A malign stranger’s visit to a remote Minnesota log cabin in the 1930s will cast long shadows over a family in a fatalistic second novel.

After her quirky debut, Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters, 2011) returns to the subject of siblings, this time via a fairy tale–flavored three-generation family portrait set in a forest wilderness. Evergreen is the tiny riverside community to which Eveline LeMay travels in 1938 to join her new husband, German immigrant and taxidermist Emil. Arriving dreamily in a rudderless boat, Eveline disembarks into a life of rural simplicity and hard labor, wrapped in the sweetness of a loving marriage. Soon after a son, Hux, is born, however, Emil is called back to Germany, to his father’s deathbed. The year being 1939, his return to Eveline will not be problem-free. Opting to stay on the land instead of returning to her own parents during Emil’s absence, Eveline discovers strength and local friendship but also suffers a traumatic rape which leads to the birth of a daughter, Naamah, whom Eveline reluctantly decides to abandon at the door of Hopewell, a Catholic orphanage. Naamah’s cruel treatment at the hands of Sister Cordelia, the crazed nun in charge at Hopewell, leaves ineradicable scars on the child’s psyche; although she escapes at age 14, her behavior—even after Hux finds and rescues her, years later—is proof of deep-rooted damage. Rasmussen’s devoted storytelling lends grace to the proceedings, but there’s a sense of sketchiness, both in the story and the cast of one-note characters whose problems are largely wiped away in an overwhelmingly sweet conclusion.

The delicate inventiveness that marked this author’s first novel is less apparent in her sentimental second.

Pub Date: July 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-35099-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2014


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