In Raichlen’s debut mainstream fiction, luck can run out and leave happiness hanging by a thread.
Raichlen, journalist and television host, takes readers to Chappaquiddick Island, site of a notorious misjudgment, and writes about a New York editor and foodie trapped in double tragedy. Claire Doheney has won awards at Apogee Press, all while dealing with a co-ed–seducing, professor husband and a daughter, Molly, whose life is all grunge, angst and piercings. Then Claire finds a dreaded lump. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she informs her husband, who promptly responds that he has found another woman to bed. Claire heals from disease and divorce at the elegant Chappaquiddick home of her best friend, Sheila. On the isolated island, Claire encounters the Hermit of Chappaquiddick, disheveled and distant, a man with dark secrets. Raichlen is solid in his descriptions of island life, in season and out. Characters are always accomplished or intriguing, although he often uses celebrity comparisons—“Imagine Queen Latifah as a white woman with a voice like Bette Midler’s.” Raichlen knows food, cooking and the ambrosial joy of natural ingredients. The foodie descriptions are succulent on the page, but the narrative is one of love, loss and endurance. On Chappaquiddick, Claire works with a “brilliant…nutty as a fruitcake” biographer of Wilhelm Reich, the iconoclast, psychiatrist and inventor of the orgone accumulator much referenced in the tale. Simultaneously, after he tends her following a bike accident, Claire draws the Hermit from his shell with empathy and gourmet cooking. Romance, happiness and death follow. The cad husband gets comeuppance. Molly finds her feet. And characters as varied as Wrench, Molly’s biker boyfriend, and Patrick, the compassionate ferry captain, make a veritable family. In the end, Claire even bests Beidermann, her bean-counting Master of Business Administration boss.
Very much Nicholas Sparks, with a locavore’s idealization of venison bacon, ramps, wild asparagus, white cap flint corn and Cape Poge Bay littlenecks and scallops.