A twentysomething man comes of age somewhat belatedly, in part by discovering an old man’s secret past.
Nathan Carter is a true Boston Brahmin, but there wasn’t much silver left on the baby’s spoon by the time he was born, and his childhood was far from privileged. Now a thirtysomething slacker, Nathan spent most of his 20s hanging out in Boston, where he waited tables and moved passionlessly from one short-term girlfriend to another. When his father died and left him a small inheritance, Nathan took the money and left town, heading up to northern Vermont and settling in the small town of Eden. There, he took a job as a mailman and started going out with Kate, the daughter of the local tavernkeeper. It was beginning to look like a rural rerun of Boston—until Nathan met Wallace Fiske, the town recluse. An old Vermonter, Wallace grew up in Eden and worked his family’s farm on the outskirts of town. Ornery and brusque (even by New England standards), Wallace is not easy to make friends with, but he eventually opens up to Nathan and slowly, piece by piece, reveals to him the story of his life. The focus of it is Nora, Wallace’s late wife, whom Wallace fell in love with on first sight in the late 1940s. Wallace is short on details but he describes the miscarriage that broke Nora’s heart and took her will to live. What Nathan finds out on his own, however, is that Nora is, in fact, alive and well in upstate New York, long estranged from Wallace. What went wrong? Nathan and Kate are impulsive types, so they visit Nora to find out. It’s a predictably sad story, involving death, adultery, betrayal, and despair. Typical backwoods Vermont, in other words.
Earnest and engaging: a nicely turned-out if unsurprising debut that’s not likely to stay in a reader’s mind for long.