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In a first novel that strains for effect, a young woman summering in Vermont finds healing and happiness after an abusive relationship ends. The author prefaces each section with a poetic invocation that aims, it seems, to ratchet up the emotions and set the appropriate mood. But this never quite happens. Despite Greenwood’s attempts to give the story cosmic values, it is essentially a schematic account of the usual: smart girl doing dumb things until she finally does wise up. Effie Greer, the English major protagonist, fell in love at college with the wrong man. Max was an abusive psychopath, but Effie moved in with him anyway and even brought him along after graduation to spend the summer at her family’s camp on a Vermont lake. But then, after a terrible quarrel that Effie feels she may have provoked, Max went rowing and accidentally killed Keisha, a black girl visiting for the summer. After the accident, Effie fled alone to the West Coast, but as the story opens three years later she’s back at the lake and finally free of Max, who has died from an overdose. Memories of their relationship alternate with the unfolding of the fateful summer’s tragic events, but as Effie fixes up the family cabin and gets together with kin, she begins to put the past to rest. Gifts start mysteriously appearing at her door, and she soon meets the giver, Devin Jackson, an African-American artist renting a neighboring cottage for the summer, ostensibly to work. The two fall in love, of course, but Devin has hidden reasons for being there: he’s Keisha’s older brother who’s come to grieve but has learned to love the lake as Effie does. Mutual confessions only deepen the pair’s burgeoning feelings, and a convenient legacy assures that more summers at the lake wait in Effie’s future. Familiar themes with a slight twist, but, nevertheless, still more familiar than not.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20283-0
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999


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