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MRS. ALWORTH by Tim Castano


by Tim Castano

Pub Date: July 6th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-73438-358-4
Publisher: New Meridian Arts

A brilliant young woman ponders love and death in 1920s New Jersey in Castano’s brisk novel.

When 19-year-old Amanda Bannon receives a terminal diagnosis for a chronic illness she’s battled since childhood (nameless but possibly a form of leukemia), her father, Joseph, a police captain, promises to fulfill her deepest wish: “I have to be able to do something....Anything you want, Amanda. Anything in the world.” Normally reserved and bookish, Amanda stuns her family (and it’s hinted, herself) by requesting to marry Orest Alworth, a mysterious young friend of her father’s and one of his fellow officers. Orest’s acceptance of the odd proposal (Mr. Bannon does the asking) also comes as a shock, but despite the awkwardness, wedding prep begins. The Bannons scramble to orchestrate Amanda’s last wish—albeit in the quickest, quietest way possible. Castano dusts off traditional archetypes and makes them feel new; the cast includes Cecilia, a deceptively zany single aunt; Margaret, Amanda’s critical but ever worried mother; and Elizabeth and Catherine, Amanda’s teenage sisters, who witness the first hints of Amanda’s feelings for Orest. A few plot twists feel hazy, but Castano’s writing is cinematic, with gorgeous, delicate imagery that feels true to the time period. Amanda’s deadpan observations are also consistently enjoyable throughout. In one of many dinner scenes, she verbalizes her feelings of separateness from her parents and sisters: “Wide-jawed, brown-eyed and chestnut hair, Dad and Catherine. Blonde, green-eyed and fine-boned, Mom and Elizabeth. Me? Slate-gray eyes dug up from some quarry. A head covered in an earth-colored tangle.” Amanda and Orest’s relationship takes shape slowly, more spiritual than romantic, even as interfering family members, gossip, revelations about Orest’s murky past, and the ever present specter of Amanda’s illness threaten to encroach.

Beautifully written and—perhaps fittingly—over too soon.