A winsome, suspenseful New England novel.
In the quaint Massachusetts village of Petawket, narrator Beth Beavers is not living the life of her dreams. Frumpy, unassertive and still unhappily unmarried in her late 30s, Farewell’s (Old Rye, 2009, etc.) protagonist finds no solace in the company of her mean-spirited co-worker at the local church, and she can’t find distraction from the recent death of her mother with whom she lived. But a budding friendship with beautiful local dressmaker Kate Cullen, who lives and works out of the old lighthouse in town, gets Beth thinking that she might not be condemned to wither away in Petawket after all, especially after Kate decides to open a store in Boston and hires Beth to work there. In addition to a sisterly camaraderie, the two women also share the pain of grief—Kate’s husband, Albert, was lost at sea nearly a year ago. Of course, there’s a hitch in this Hitchcock-ian tale of trust and betrayal: In the first chapter, Beth discovers some rather incriminating evidence about the circumstances surrounding Albert’s death. Even so, Beth struggles with whether or not the kind young woman who’s taken an almost philanthropic interest in her could be capable of murder. Their friendship is made even more fraught by Beth’s obsessive jealousy of Kate, whose talent, charm and impeccable appearance she constantly comments upon. And when Kate begins dating the former high school classmate Beth’s spent years pining for, Beth’s resentment only continues to grow—until she’s faced with a difficult decision and some demons of her own. Funny, pathetic and sympathetic in equal parts, Beth Beavers is an exceptional narrator, and even when Farewell’s lucid prose now and then veers toward cliché (“hungry as a bear,” etc.), it’s easily absorbed into Beth’s clear and well-developed voice. The narrative builds to a climactic confrontation scene that is perfectly executed, but the book loses its guiding light after that, with a resolution much neater and simpler than the rest of the story.
Entertaining and endearing, Farewell’s new novel is a well-tailored fit for fans of women-centered mysteries and books about female friendship.