Harbor Lights

Harbor Lights

by Theodore Weesner
     
 

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Set in southern Maine, Harbor Lights follows the last weeks of lobster fisherman Warren Hudon's life. His character and passions shaped by the rough waters on which he spends his days, Warren has created a life of almost absolute isolation. But when he is diagnosed with rapidly developing cancer, he finds himself driven to make peace with his long-estranged wife,

Overview

Set in southern Maine, Harbor Lights follows the last weeks of lobster fisherman Warren Hudon's life. His character and passions shaped by the rough waters on which he spends his days, Warren has created a life of almost absolute isolation. But when he is diagnosed with rapidly developing cancer, he finds himself driven to make peace with his long-estranged wife, Beatrice, and their adult daughter, Marian. Told in restrained, evocative prose, Harbor Lights mesmerizes its readers with a tale of a marriage gone seriously awry and a man's growing rage that culminates in an act of passionate violence.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though sensitively and intelligently composed, Weesner's story of a terminally ill Maine lobsterman who seeks to rectify a life gone wrong is finally stifled by its gloomy premise. Warren Hudon has been diagnosed with a particularly deadly form of cancer and has only a short time to live. He has accumulated very little in his 57 years, but he must quickly dispense with his meager belongings and decide how best to take leave of his family. His marriage is a sham: although he and his wife, Beatrice, live under the same roof, she has openly been carrying on an affair with Senator Virgil Pound for years, and she and Warren barely speak. Warren's daughter Marian works in the department store her mother runs, and she has taken her mother's side in the family split. It is only as the novel nears its end that she begins to reconsider Warren's position--but by then it is too late. Deep down, Warren still hopes for reconciliation with Beatrice, but when he realizes their marriage never had a chance, he chooses to settle his accounts on earth with a stupidly violent act that only drives him further away from redemption. As Warren, Beatrice, Marian and Virgil take turns telling the story, their distinctive voices--from Warren's mournful tones to Beatrice's subtle blend of ambition, power and rage--poignantly express the dynamics of their relationships. At times, the novel sings with a poetic simplicity that recalls Russell Banks or Carolyn Chute. It falters, however, when Weesner (author of the praised The Car Thief) eschews showing for telling, and when Warren's morbid outlook grows so relentless that it strains belief. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is a beautifully written, harrowing novel about a marriage gone terribly wrong. Set in southern Maine, the novel features protagonist Warren Hudson, a lobster fisherman who continues to live in a loveless, bitter marriage of convenience, hoping that he and his wife of over 35 years may some day reconcile. Blinded by desperate love and irrational hope, Warren cannot see that his wife, Beatrice, is hopelessly lost to him. Beatrice has openly conducted a 30-year affair with a powerful, handsome married man, Sen. Virgil Pound. She has only stayed with Warren to preserve Virgil's public reputation and political viability. This is a powerful novel about agonizing choices and heartbreaking truths that vividly dramatizes the consequences of not courageously and honestly facing those truths. Enthusiastically recommended for all libraries.--Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"This is a beautifully written, harrowing novel about a marriage gone terribly wrong…agonizing choices and heartbreaking truths that vividly dramatizes the consequences of not courageously and honestly facing those truths.", Library Journal

"The triumph of Weesner's rigorously realistic story is that we come to know his characters as we know ourselves, yet are as startled by the directions in which their emotions lead them as we are by the unpredictability of our own lives. An unforgettable novel, unquestionably Weesner's best to date.", Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780871137661
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/2000
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.21(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.91(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

The late, great, Theodore (Ted) Weesner died in 2015. Known as the ‘Writer’s writer’ by the larger literary community, his novels and short works were published to great critical acclaim.

Born in Flint, Michigan, to an alcoholic father and teenage mother who abandoned him aged one, he spent a large part of his childhood in an unofficial foster home of an immobile woman of over five hundred pounds. This, however, gave him and his elder brother, Jack, a degree of freedom to explore and have a wide variety of childhood adventures. He nevertheless became introspective as a teenager, with a rebellious streak, which led to him not graduating from high school and also becoming involved in petty crime. Eventually returning to the care of his father, he finally took off on his own when he lied about his age and joined the Army aged seventeen.

It was the Army that finally had the influence previously lacking in Weesner’s life, and whist serving he earned a high school equivalency diploma, which on leaving allowed him to gain a place at Michigan State University and then an M.F.A. degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

His experiences in the Army also provided material for two of his later books, and others gained from his many years of teaching at the University of New Hampshire, and later Emerson College. Put together with his earlier life experiences, ample material was available to provide a background for his plots, once he had honed his writing skills, and his works never lost their air of reality and his inherent understanding of human behaviour.

His first novel, ‘The Car Thief’ was published in 1972 after excerpts had appeared in ‘The New Yorker’, ‘Esquire’ and ‘The Atlantic Monthly’. It was a coming-of-age tale that critics found ‘original, perspicacious and tender’. Joseph McElroy, in ‘The New York Times Book Review’, referred to it as ‘a story so modestly precise and so movingly inevitable that before I knew what was happening to me I felt in the grip of some kind of thriller’. In his obituary of Weesner, published in the ‘New York Times’ in June 2015, Bruce Weber stated that ‘like many a critically appreciated book …. it faded rather quickly from view. But it became famous in literary circles as a forgotten gem’. It has since had a second life, being re-published twice more and continues to grip readers of a new generation as well as remaining popular with those who were its contemporaries.

Again, Weesner’s later work did not always enjoy the immediate commercial success that might be expected of critically acclaimed work – to the sorrow of his fellow writers, and recognised by Weesner himself, who was acutely aware of the ‘neglected writer’ label – despite such plaudits as that of the novelist Stewart O’Nan, when speaking of ‘The True Detective’, and calling it ‘one of the great, great American novels’. This could be because his particular genre became crowded at the time of his writing, often by lesser authors who nonetheless achieved the publicity needed to produce success.

Indeed, as is the case with many great writers, an enhanced and wider appreciation of Theodore Weesner’s catalogue will undoubtedly grow following his departure from the scene.
His short works have previously been published in the ‘New Yorker’, ‘Esquire’, ‘Saturday Evening Post’, ‘Atlantic Monthly’ and ‘Best American Short Stories’. Likewise, his novels appeared in the ‘New York Times’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘Harper’s’, ‘The Boston Globe’, ‘USA Today’, ‘The Chicago Tribune’, and ‘The Los Angeles Times’.

During his lifetime Weesner received the ‘New Hampshire Literary Award’ for Lifetime Achievement, whilst ‘The Car Thief’ won for him the ‘Great Lakes Writers Prize’, and ‘The True Detective’ was cited in 1987 by the American Library Association as a notable book of that year. He was also the recipient of ‘Guggenheim’ and ‘National Endowment for the Humanities’ awards.

A perfectionist, Theodore Weesner did meticulous research, and was never afraid of going back over and re-writing his work before publication, believing in the maxim ‘the great novel isn't written, it's rewritten’.

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