Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Book Round-Up. Last weekend, I heard the sad news of Anita Shreve’s passing. I knew she was ill and fighting a horrible disease but her sudden passing was a shock. She’s one of the authors who’s had a huge impact on me. Her ability to describe stark emotions while creating an impossible to put down story made me an instant fan. I do have Oprah to thank for introducing me to Shreve back in the day. I started with The Weight of Water and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. Today, I honor the legacy of Anita Shreve and her beautiful, must-read books.
Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O'Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. "I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never."
Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories ("I really could have," she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, "Past the Island, Drifting," won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn't make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for three years, working as a journalist for an African magazine. One of her novels, The Last Time They Met, contains bits and pieces from her time in Africa.
Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 14 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot's Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, Body Surfing, Testimony,and A Change in Altitude.
In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot's Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah's Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot's Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.
Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. "The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming," she says. "A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike."
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities. She passed away on March 29, 2018.
--Biography and image courtesy of her Amazon Author Page.
Here are my must-read novels by Anita Shreve:
Strange Fits of Passion: A Novel
The reader is left to uncover the truth in this labyrinth of a tale, a riveting story told within the framework of one reporter's notes and a woman's letters from prison. Everyone believes that Maureen and Harrold English, two successful New York City journalists, have a happy, stable marriage. It's the early '70s and no one discusses or even suspects domestic abuse. But after Maureen suffers another brutal beating, she flees New York with her infant daughter and seeks refuge in a small coastal town in Maine. The weeks pass slowly, and just as Maureen begins to heal physically and emotionally, Harrold finds her, bringing the story to a violent, unforgettable end.
All He Ever Wanted: A Novel
"A marriage is always two intersecting stories." This realization comes perhaps too late to the husband of Etna Bliss-a man whose obsession with his young wife begins at the moment of their first meeting, as he helps Etna and her companions escape from a fire in a hotel restaurant, and culminates in a marriage doomed by secrets and betrayal. Written with the intelligence and grace that are the hallmarks of Anita Shreve's bestselling novels, this gripping tale of desire, jealousy, and loss is peopled by unforgettable characters as real as the emotions that bring them together.
The Weight of Water
"I wonder this: If you take a woman and push her to the edge, how will she behave?" The question is posed by Jean, a photographer, who arrives on Smuttynose Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, to research a century-old crime. As she immerses herself in the details of the case--an outburst of passion that resulted in the deaths of two women--Jean herself enters precarious emotional territory. The suspicion that her husband is having an affair burgeons into jealousy and distrust, and ultimately propels Jean to the verge of actions she had not known herself capable of--actions with horrific consequences. Everywhere hailed for its beauty and power, The Weight of Water takes us on an unforgettable journey through the furthest extremes of emotion.
A Wedding in December: A Novel
At an inn in the Berkshire Mountains, seven former schoolmates gather to celebrate a wedding--a reunion that becomes the occasion of astonishing revelations as the friends collectively recall a long-ago night that indelibly marked each of their lives. Written with the fluent narrative artistry that distinguishes all of Anita Shreve's bestselling novels, A Wedding in December acutely probes the mysteries of the human heart and the endless allure of paths not taken.
The Stars Are Fire: A novel
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath--based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history
In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms--joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain--and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens--and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.
Have you read any of her books? If so, which one is your favorite? Share in the comments below and don’t forget to share using the buttons below. See you next week!
MRS N, Book Addict