HARBOR LIGHTS by Theodore Weesner


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An almost unbearable sense of the futility and pain that ensue from the failure of decent people to sustain loving relationships lies at the heart of this bleak sixth novel by the New Hampshire author (Novemberfest,1994, etc.). Weesner, whose meditative style and painstaking narrative architecture gradually build a vividly evoked world, opens his story with a tight focus on Maine lobsterman Warren Hudon’s arduous performance of his daily chores. Warren both accepts and ignores the fact that he’s dying from lung cancer—a fact he conceals from Beatrice, his unfaithful, long-estranged wife (with whom he still lives, however), and their daughter, Marian, also trapped in a loveless marriage, to a coarse husband she’s eager to ditch. The viewpoint shifts among these three and Virgil Pound, the sleek, duplicitous former state senator (himself married for many years) who has, as Warren well knows, been Beatrice’s lover for 30 years. Is the unassuming Warren, as seems strongly implied, a Dante wandering in a dark wood of suffering, separated from his Beatrice, (mis-)guided by an utterly self-absorbed Virgil? Such parallels aren—t developed, but there’s genuine tragic force in the tale’s inexorable progression. Preparing to die, Warren seeks a meeting with Beatrice, hoping to forgive and to find peace. Guilty and suspicious because she has long felt taken for granted, she rebuffs him. Then, reversing a pattern of 30 years of passivity, Warren acts’shattering four lives irreparably. The devastatingly ironic denouement foreshadows the lasting consequences, even as it hints at the possibility of reconciliation beyond any he had hoped for. The triumph of Weesner’s rigorously realistic story is that we come to know his characters as fully as we know ourselves, yet are as startled by the directions in which their emotions lead them as we are by the unpredictability of our own lives. An unforgettable novel, unquestionably Weesner’s best to date.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87113-766-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1999