Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review - The End of the Point (Graver)

This is a long time coming.  My brain is still acting fuzzy and I'm suddenly a very slow reader, some nights I can't really read at all.  So the speed is a reflection on me, not anything I'm reading these days.  Many thanks to the Harper folks for putting up with a slow reviewer! 

This is a story of a family and of a place.  It opens in 1942 with the Porter family summering in Ashaunt Point, a fictional community on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts.  Ashaunt is very much an insider's community, the summer home to wives, children, and hired help, where the husbands visit on weekends and when they can get off work.  Bea, a nanny largely focused on the youngest daughter, is the main character in the early chapters as Ashaunt is altered by the arrival of soldiers building a base for WWII-related purposes.  As the novel progresses, it focuses on several other characters (all members of the family aside from Bea, who is essentially an adopted family member).

We see the years progress, the women juggle family and work/intellectual lives and one son deal with the after-effects of a bad drug trip and another war.  Different characters take the lead as the years progress from 1942 through 1999, although Bea is revisited as a focal character at several points. 

A number of themes run through the novel.  Family relations, both blood and heart-bound, are a major topic, including the strained relationships that can exist between parent and child.  Family ties with the theme of place and the way a place can shape an individual and an entire family line.  War's effects are another theme as WWII and Vietnam impact Ashaunt and the Porter family.  Nature and conservation are also key topics. 

My thoughts -- I'm not sure I'd seek out another Graver novel, but I did enjoy the book (supplied to me by Harper).  The writing was good, but I didn't find it as spectacular as other readers report.  I liked the concept of focusing on how time flows and how people and a place evolve together.  I wasn't overly interested in the character of Charlie (son of one of the three daughters from the first section), so those parts dragged a bit for me.  I enjoyed being able to revisit Bea throughout the novel since she was definitely one of my favorite characters.  I'd have loved more of a glimpse at the dynamic between the hired help and the well-off families of Ashaunt, including those who become part of the family and those who do not....although the novel is already a bit packed.  The novel is, perhaps, too packed and could have benefited from dropping one or two themes. 

Overall - A decent read.  Lots of themes and not a frivolous read but I think it would still make a good vacation/beach book.  Three and a half stars....rounded up for sites that require "full" stars because of the well-developed characters and sense of place. 

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