From Publishers Weekly
In Strout's graceful if languid second novel, set in the cold northern reaches of New England during the Cold War, Tyler Caskey is a young minister tending to the faith of his small, gossipy parish. He's also struggling with the aftermath of his wife's premature death, which has left him with two little girls to raise. What the plot lacks in pace and surprise, Strout makes up for with intelligent, revealing portraits of many characters, and Raphael's versatile voice makes them even more memorable. Her voice shrinks remarkably to speak the lines of Caskey's traumatized older daughter; turns gruff and unhappy for Charles Austin, a church deacon wrestling with his own secret demons; and ratchets up into startlingly cold and imperious territories for Caskey's meddling mother. Raphael deftly switches from the plummy, slightly British-accented voice she uses for most of the narration to speak in the drawn-out, nasal tones of Caskey's plainspoken, friendly housekeeper. Though the abridgment cuts out some of the background story, events are still sometimes drawn out. But fans of such closely observed period pieces will no doubt revel in Strout's evocative prose and in Raphael's richly textured interpretation.
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Strout's quiet, graceful second novel is much like its hero, minister Tyler Caskey: earnest, introspective, and prone to occasional outbursts of deeply felt emotion. Set in the small town of West Annett, Maine, in the 1950s, the novel focuses on the two years after the death of Tyler's vibrant, charismatic wife, Lauren. Although Tyler has always been well liked in West Annett, Lauren never fit in with the wives in the village, who were put off by her stylish clothing and aloof nature. Now their young daughter Katherine is finding herself equally ostracized, and Tyler is offended and disturbed when Katherine's teacher suggests the girl might need to talk with the school counselor. Distressed, Tyler turns to his only ally, his unobtrusive but observant housekeeper, Connie Hatch. But Connie has secrets of her own, and when word gets out that the police want her for questioning about a series of thefts, she disappears. Readers who enjoyed Strout's first book, Amy and Isabelle
(1999), will find much to move them in this tale of a man trying to get past his grief amid a town full of colorful people with their own secrets and heartaches. Kristine HuntleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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