In this debut novel, a letter causes artist Margaret Windley to reflect upon a romance from 20 years ago.
Margaret is a single mom and artist living near a wildlife preserve in North Carolina. Her beloved father—her sole parent following her mother’s untimely death—is now also dead, and her son is about to start law school. Longtime neighbor Henry Jessup is, as always, admiring and nearby. Then Margaret is upended by a letter from the brother of John Ashton. He requests a meeting; she agrees via a return voice mail and proceeds to recall her whirlwind romance with John, a rich, aspiring young lawyer from New York City. They met 20 years before, in 1962, when he was staying in the nearby Mattamuskeet Lodge. Margaret was angry that John had shot some waterfowl, since she memorialized them in paintings; killing one member of a pair, as he did, greatly grieves the survivor. John, made aware of this and attracted to Margaret, made amends, soon came to dinner at her house, and later took her to a lodge dance. Afterward, they made love, and John went back home, promising to return. By novel’s end, Margaret finds out what happened to John and about her father’s surprising actions after John left as well as the legacy now left for her son, John. It all helps her finally move forward with her life and with a new relationship in the North Carolina region she loves. First-time novelist Warren notes that a trip to the actual Lake Mattamuskett inspired this nostalgic love story. She certainly captures the preserve’s natural beauty while channeling The Bridges of Madison County and the novels of Nicholas Sparks in this look back at a fleeting yet momentous romance. While this story’s final twists hold some dramatic appeal, readers might wish Warren had fleshed out this narrative a bit more, particularly Margaret’s life following John’s desertion as well as her fluctuating relationship with Henry. Overall, however, this is a gracefully executed impressionistic tale.
Evocative, elegiac romance.