The 2000 summer season in fictional Long Harbor, Rhode Island, becomes the setting for a family reunion and the revelation of a long-held secret, not to mention the airing of more than a few resentments, in this debut novel.
Becca Meister Fitzpatrick presides over the family’s rambling summer “cottage,” Eden, which she owns jointly with her two older surviving brothers, Thomas and Edward. But Becca, now in her 70s, is in financial trouble. Her husband, Dan, died suddenly the previous fall, and it turns out he was a very careless guardian of the couple’s wealth. He was more interested in golf, the sea, and partaking in the social scene than in his medical practice. Becca is broke. She is hoping that Thomas and Edward will buy her share of the house and keep Eden, built by their father in the early 1920s. This sprawling 20th-century family tale, complete with rivalries, tragedies, and a continuing thread of unexpected pregnancies, smoothly alternates between past and present, going back to 1915, when Becca’s parents, Bunny and Sadie, first met. Now Sarah, Becca’s unmarried granddaughter, announces that she is pregnant; the Meister/Fitzpatrick clan is about to welcome its fifth generation. Eden has been a family anchor for almost 80 years, most especially for Becca. Long Harbor is a lower octane Newport, but the social pretensions can hold their own against any of today’s wealthy beach enclaves. Blasberg’s evocative prose captures the place and atmosphere: “The glass was streaked with salt and sand, and there were cobwebs between the screen and the storms. Outside a gentle rain was falling, a purifying springtime shower.” Becca is a rich, complex character: on one level, damaged by her mother’s need to avoid scandal, and on another, the eager standard bearer of the family’s legacy. Readers are privy to tantalizing information that the current clan members will never learn (for example, Bunny placed Sadie in a sanitarium for a year when she suffered from depression after Becca’s birth), and so even the central protagonist is not able to appreciate fully the trajectory of cascading actions and consequences.
An engrossing, character-driven family saga.