Disasters bookend this slim story, the last in a quartet of loosely linked novels (Meritocracy, 2004, etc.) from TV and movie scriptwriter Lewis.
The setting is coastal Maine. The small community of Clement’s Cove is made up of year-rounders and summer people from “away.” The year-rounders, like Thomas Hardy’s rustics, gather in the general store to comment on the action, which begins with a fabulous wedding paid for by the groom, Adam Bloch, a Jew among the WASPs. Back in 1966, Adam was the driver in an accident that killed a beautiful young woman, Sascha Maclaren; he hasn’t felt human since, though he has gone on to amass an extraordinary fortune. Blind chance tugs Lewis’s characters this way and that, and a happenstance meeting in Manhattan between the lonely bachelor billionaire and Sascha’s beautiful sister Maisie leads to their marriage (both are now in their 50s). The story revolves round two couples: Diffident Adam and capricious Maisie, and the year-rounders Verna, who cleans houses, and her shiftless boyfriend Roy, who doesn’t do much of anything. Adam has built a magnificent house for his bride and her two little girls (Chinese, adopted). Maisie needs a lap pool. Verna possesses the last piece of soft ground in this rocky terrain, ideal for Maisie’s pool; but Verna won’t sell. Resisting the conventional story line (new money rides roughshod over the old timers), Lewis has Adam, the good neighbor, back off; but his perfect manners are no match for life’s vicissitudes, and in a second disaster, the house burns to the ground. We learn this at the outset, but Lewis cunningly conceals the circumstances, to provide a gripping climax. In between he looks glancingly at the trickiness of relationships, the attachment to ancestral land and the unfair distribution of guilt. He does justice to both social groups, and he is helped immeasurably by a pitch-perfect ear.
Quirky, rueful and wise.