From the author of How Close We Come (1998), an appealing, rueful, lost-illusions tale of two women who meet again in a small Blue Ridge Mountain town after many years apart and reassess their treasured childhood friendship.
Narrator Hannah Marsh, her loving husband, Hal, and their two good children, 11-year-old Ellen and 15-year-old Mark, seem to have everything when they move to Rural Ridge, North Carolina. Hal, a successful businessman needing a change, has accepted a job teaching school in nearby Asheville. Their new house is charming, the mountain views splendid, and Hannah, a gardener, eagerly anticipates being able to grow all the bulbs that failed to thrive in Durham. But an encounter with Peter Whicker, the local Episcopalian priest, who turns out to be married to her old friend Daintry O’Connor, soon blights what was to have been paradise. Hannah and Daintry grew up in Cullen, a small mill town. Daintry, like her siblings, was adopted (her father was an idealistic and underpaid pediatrician). Hannah’s family was more affluent and socially prominent, but she envied the freewheeling O’Connors and, enthralled by Daintry’s beauty and authoritative ways, became her devoted follower. Now, as she settles in, Hannah recalls with mixed feelings the happy times they shared as well as Daintry’s increasingly hurtful behavior (she once set Hannah up with a date who got her drunk), which led to their estrangement when Hannah went away to boarding school. Daintry, now a high-powered businesswoman, seems cool, even rude, so Hannah feels no guilt about her own attraction to Peter, who seems to understand her better than Hal. While Hannah plants a garden near the church cemetery at Peter’s request, they talk, flirt, and then plan an extramarital fling. Hannah finds herself falling in love, but she has not reckoned with Daintry, who has some equally mixed memories of their friendship to share.
Amiable beach reading.