More Than You Know

( 30 )

Overview

In a small town called Dundee on the coast of Maine, an old woman named Hannah Gray begins her story: "Somebody said 'true love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.' I've seen both and I don't know how to tell you which is worse." Hannah has decided, finally, to leave a record of the passionate and anguished long-ago summer in Dundee when she met Conary Crocker, the town bad boy and love of her life. This spare, piercing, and unforgettable novel bridges two centuries and two intense love ...

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Overview

In a small town called Dundee on the coast of Maine, an old woman named Hannah Gray begins her story: "Somebody said 'true love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.' I've seen both and I don't know how to tell you which is worse." Hannah has decided, finally, to leave a record of the passionate and anguished long-ago summer in Dundee when she met Conary Crocker, the town bad boy and love of her life. This spare, piercing, and unforgettable novel bridges two centuries and two intense love stories as Hannah and Conary's fate is interwoven with the tale of a marriage that took place in Dundee a hundred years earlier.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
This "lovely, haunting, and engaging" novel spans more than two centuries of family relationships, both good and bad, loving and controlling. "The writing is intimate and cozy." "Left me breathless. Get the Kleenex out" for this one.
Sandra Scofield
Completely engrossing and entertaining, replete with suspense, grace, and sympathy... —Newsday
Shirley Hazzard
An exceptional novel — thrilling, taut, austere: this is extraordinary writing of a tense, crystalline beauty.
Reeve Lindbergh
...Gutcheon is a wonderful writer. More Than You Know is a triumph, ghost and all. —Boston Herald
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's a rare author who can combine a humdinger of a ghost tale with a haunting story of young love, and do so with literary grace and finesse. Gutcheon does just that and she acquits herself beautifully in this poignant novel. What's more, she adroitly manages alternating narratives, set a century apart, raising the level of suspense as the characters in each period approach the cusp on which a life turns, in parallel events that will irrevocably define the future for all of them. The novel is essentially two stories of doomed love and its consequences for future generations. Narrator Hannah Gray is an elderly widow when she relates the circumstances of the summer when she fell in love with Conary Crocker, a charming young man from a poor family in Dundee on the coast of Maine. Brought to Dundee from Boston during the Depression by her abusive stepmother, Hannah learns about the fate of distant ancestral relatives of hers and Conary's, who lived on now-deserted Beal Island in the mid 1800s. The reader learns the horrifying details in the same small increments that Hannah does, via the alternating point of view of Claris Osgood, who in 1858 defies her parents and marries taciturn Danial Haskell, moving with him to the island where, too late, she discovers her new husband's narrow-minded religious fundamentalism and corrosively mean personality. The union, which produces two children, becomes increasingly rancorous and will end in murder. Meanwhile, in her own time, Hannah is terrified by the appearances of a wildly sobbing ghost with "gruesome burning eyes," who exudes almost palpable hatred. Tantalizing clues about the identity of the macabre specter, and the eventual tragedy it causes, hum through the narrative like a racing pulse. Gutcheon adds depth and texture through lovely descriptions of the Maine coast and the authentic vernacular of its residents, whom she depicts with real knowledge of life in a seacoast community. Her sophisticated prose and narrative skill mark this novel, her sixth (after Five Fortunes), as a breakthrough to a wide readership. Agent, Wendy Weil. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club featured alternate; 6-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
As an old woman, Hannah Gray looks deep into her past at the great and tragic love of her life with the wild and handsome Conary Crocker. Drawn together by a frightening apparition from the previous century and by their mutually miserable family lives, the young lovers make an urgent bid to outrun fate and solve a murder from their own ancestral gene pools. In 1886 someone planted an ax in the head of Daniel Haskell, kin to Conary. The likeliest suspects were his wife Claris or his daughter Sallie--both relatives of Hannah. Gutcheon traces the wrenching unraveling of Claris and Daniel's love, done in by the cruel and twisted ways of a marriage run dreadfully amok. Gutcheon, author of five previous novels (including Domestic Pleasure and Five Fortunes), uses her incandescent storytelling gifts to ignite the parallel tales of Hannah and Conary's and Claris and Daniel's love--ruined beyond repair by circumstance, hatred, and a desperate angry ghost. It is the rare writer indeed who can end every single chapter with deliciously suspenseful foreboding. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/99.]--Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Elderly Hannah Gray narrates this enthralling tale of events that occurred in her 17th summer when she accompanied her grim stepmother to a small village on the Maine coast. Their rented cottage was a converted schoolhouse that had been brought to the mainland from a nearby island. Hannah sees visions of a tormented, ghostlike figure in the house and she hears mysterious sounds emanating from the upper-floor rooms. She learns that a young woman was accused, tried, and acquitted of killing her father there 75 years earlier. Alternating chapters tell the sad story of Claris Osgood, the lonely daughter of a happy, talented, and prosperous family in the village in the 1800s. In search of independence, she insists on marrying a quiet, brooding man, and they move out to the island. Misfortune strikes Claris's family as they struggle in silent combat among themselves. While Hannah is trying to avoid spending time with her dour, disapproving stepmother, she roams the village and becomes friendly with a young man whose family has deep roots in the area. They visit the now-uninhabited island where they come face to face with the past. Teens will enjoy these parallel stories of love between people from different backgrounds and be saddened by the dual tragedies that strike them. Suspense keeps the plot moving at a rapid clip.-Penny Stevens, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060959357
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 215,736
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Beth Gutcheon

Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage, and Good-bye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy-Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.

Biography

Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of eight previous novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, Five Fortunes, More Than You Know, Leeway Cottage, and Goodbye and Amen. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy Award nominee The Children of Theatre Street. She lives in New York City.

Good To Know

Gutcheon shared some fun and fascinating anecdotes in our interview:

"When my second novel was in manuscript, a subsidiary rights guy at my publisher secretly sent a copy of it to a friend who was working in Hollywood with the producer Stanley Jaffe, who had made Goodbye Columbus, The Bad News Bears, and Kramer v. Kramer, run Paramount Pictures before he was 30, and met the queen of England. My agent had an auction set up for the film rights of Still Missing for the following Friday, with some very heavy-hitter producers and such, which was exciting enough. Two days before the auction, Stanley Jaffe walked into my agent's office in New York and said, ‘I want to make a pre-emptive bid for Beth Gutcheon's novel.'

‘But you haven't read it,' says Wendy.

‘Nevertheless,' says Stanley.

‘Well, I have this auction set up. You're going to have to pay a lot to have me call it off,' says Wendy.

‘I understand that,' says Stanley.

Wendy named a number.

Stanley said, ‘Done,' or words to that effect.

To this day, remembering Wendy's next phone call to me causes me something resembling a heart attack.

When, several weeks later, Stanley called and asked me if I had an interest in writing the screenplay of the movie that became Without a Trace, I said, ‘No.'

He quite rightly hung up on me.

I then spent twenty minutes in a quiet room wondering what I had done. A man with a shelf full of Oscars, on cozy terms with Lizzie Windsor, had just offered me film school for one, all expenses paid by Twentieth Century Fox. He knew I didn't know how to write screenplays. He wasn't offering to hire me because he wanted to see me fail. Who cares that all I ever wanted to see on my tombstone was ‘She Wrote a Good Book?' The chance to learn something new that was both hard and really interesting was not resistible. I spent the rest of the weekend tracking him from airport to airport until I could get him back on the phone. (This was before we all had cell phones.)

I was sitting in my bleak office on a wet gray day, on which my newly teenaged son had shaved his head and I had just realized I'd lost my American Express card, when the phone rang. ‘Is this Beth Gutcheon?' asked a voice that made my hair stand on end. I said it was. ‘This is Paul Newman,' said the voice.

It was, too. The fine Italian hand of Stanley Jaffe again, he'd recommended me to work on a script Paul was developing. Paul invited me to dinner to talk about it. My son said, ‘For heaven's sake, Mother, don't be early and don't be tall.' I was both. We did end up writing a script together; it was eventually made for television with Christine Lahti, and fabulous Terry O'Quinn in the Paul Newman part, called The Good Fight."

"I read all the time. My husband claims I take baths instead of showers because I can't figure out how to read in the shower, and he's right."

"I started buying poetry for the first time since college after 9/11, but wasn't reading it until a friend mentioned that she and her husband read poetry in the morning before they have breakfast. She is right -- a pot of tea and a quiet table in morning sunlight is exactly the right time for poetry. I read The New York Times Book Review in the bath and on subways because it is light and foldable. I listen to audiobooks through earphones while I take my constitutionals or do housework. I read physical books for a couple of hours every night after everyone else is in bed -- usually two books alternately, one novel and one biography or book of letters."

"I have a dog named Daisy Buchanan. She ran for president last fall; her slogan was ‘No Wavering, No Flip-flopping, No pants.' She doesn't know yet that she didn't win, so if you meet her, please don't tell her."

"Last little-known fact: When I was in high school I invented, by knitting one, a double-wide sweater with two turtlenecks for my brother and his girlfriend. It was called a Tweter and was even manufactured in college colors for a year or two. There was a double-paged color spread in Life magazine of models wearing Tweters and posing with the Jets football team. My proudest moment was the Charles Addams cartoon that ran in The New Yorker that year. It showed a Tweter in a store window, while outside, gazing at it in wonder, was a man with two heads."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

My children think I'm mad to come up here in winter, but this is the only place I could tell this story. They think the weather is too cold for me, and the light is so short this time of year. It's true this isn't a story I want to tell in darkness. It isn't a story I want to tell at all, but neither do I want to take it with me.

If you approach Dundee, Maine, from inland by daylight, you see that you're traveling through wide reaches of pasture strewn with boulders, some of them great gray hulks as big as a house. You can feel the action of some vast mass of glacier scraping and gouging across the land, scarring it and littering it with granite detritus. The thought of all that ice pressing against the land makes you understand the earth as warm, living, and indestructible. Changeable, certainly. It was certainly changed by the ice. But it's the ice that's gone, and grass blows around the boulders, and lichens, green and silver, grow on them somehow like warm vegetable skin over the rock. Even rock, cold compared to earth, is warm and living, compared to the ice.

For miles and miles, the nearer you draw to the sea, the more the road climbs; I always think it must have been hard on the horses. Finally you reach the shoulder of Butter Hill, and then you are tipped suddenly down the far slope into the town. My heart moves every time I see that tiny brave and lovely cluster of bare white houses against the blue of the bay.

The earliest settlers in Dundee didn't come from inland; they came from the sea. It was far easier to sail downwind, even along that drowned coastline of mountains, whose peaks form the islands and ledges where boatsland or founder, than to make your way by land. In many parts of the coast the islands were settled well before the mainland. This was particularly true of Great Spruce Bay, where Beal Island lies, a long tear-shaped mass in the middle of the bay, and where Dundee sits at the head of the innermost harbor.

Not much is known about the first settlement on Beat Island, except that a seventeenth-century hermit named Beat either chose it or was cast away there, and trapped and fished alone near the south end until, one winter, he broke his leg and died. Later, several families took root on the island and a tiny community grew near March Cove. Around 1760 a man named Crocker moved his wife and children from Beal onto the main to build a sawmill where the stream flows into the bay. The settlement there flourished and was sometimes called Crocker's Cove, or sometimes Friends' Cove, or Roundyville, after the early families who lived there. In the 1790s, the town elected to call the place Sunbury, and proudly sent Jacob Roundy down to Boston to file papers of incorporation (as Maine was then a territory of Massachusetts). When he got back, Roundy explained that the whole long way south on muleback he'd had a hymn tune in his head. The tune was Dundee and he'd decided this was a sign from God. "God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform: He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm" went the first verse. The sentiment was hard to quarrel with, though there were those who were spitting mad, especially Abner Crocker, who had to paint out the word SUNBURY on the sign he had made to mark the town line, and for years and years faint ghosts of the earlier letters showed through behind the word DUNDEE.

There are small but thriving island settlements on the coast of Maine, even now. On Swans, Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, Vinalhaven, the Cranberry Isles. But no one lives on Beal Island anymore. Where there were open meadows and pastures a hundred years ago, now are masses of black-green spruce and fir and Scotch pine, interrupted by alder scrub. Summer people go out there for picnics and such, and so do people from the town, and so did I sixty years ago, but I'll never go again.

Traces of the town have disappeared almost completely, though it's been gone so short a time. Yet the island has been marked and changed by human habitation, as Maine meadows inland were altered by ancient ice. Something remains of the lives that were lived there. When hearts swell and hearts break, the feelings that filled them find other homes than human bodies, as moss deprived of earth can live on rock.

When my children were little, they used to pester Kermit Horton, down at the post office, to tell about the night he was riding past Friends' Comer and the ghost of a dead girl got right up behind him on his horse and rode with him from the spot where she died till he reached the graveyard. I'd heard Kermit tell that story quite a few times. When someone asked him who the girl was, and how she died, he usually said that no one knew, though once he told a summer visitor she'd been eaten by hogs.

I didn't know Kermit when I was very little and made brief visits to my grandparents. But I remember him well from that summer Edith brought me and my brother back to Dundee. And I remember Bowdoin Leach. Bowdoin liked me; he always told me he had been fond of my mother. I was seventeen that year, and I needed the kindness. Bowdoin was bent with arthritis, but he was still running his blacksmith shop out in the shed behind his niece's house. There were some who didn't care to talk about Beal Island, where he had grown up. Bowdoin seemed to like to, if asked the right way.

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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
In a small town called Dundee on the coast of Maine, an old woman named Hannah Gray begins her story: "Somebody said 'True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about, and few have seen.' I've seen both, and I don't know how to tell you which is worse." Hannah has decided, finally, to leave a record of the passionate and anguished long-ago summer in Dundee when she met Conary Crocker, the town bad boy and the love of her life. First love often brings astonishment, joy, and frustration, but theirs is somehow also mixed with something frightening. Hannah discovers, as Conary and others in the town soon suspect, that there is a very unquiet and angry spirit inhabiting the house that Hannah's stepmother has rented for the summer.

This spare, piercing, and unforgettable novel bridges two centuries and two intense love stories as Hannah and Conary's fate is interwoven with the tale of a marriage that took place in Dundee a hundred years earlier. Hannah says, "I don't suppose you have to believe in ghosts to know that we are all haunted, all of us, by things we can see and feel and guess at, and many more things that we can't." But she knows that ghosts are utterly real, as well as metaphoric, and is haunted by the sense that if she could have learned who this ghost was, and what it wanted, she might have made a difference.

Ghosts haunt places where they have been deeply happy or intensely bitter in life. But this one's places have been disturbed. The house where it is seen was no one's home; it was first a schoolhouse, and originally stood not in Dundee but in an island village now abandoned and lost. What happened in that place, to a family trappedin a murderous pattern that seems to echo eerily through time, becomes the question that haunts Hannah and Conary and will keep you guessing until the last, chilling page. Questions for Discussion
  • What does the title mean? To whom, other than the "boy of my heart" (p. 229), does it refer?
  • Hannah begins the story by writing "Some-body said 'True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about, and few have seen.' I've seen both, and I don't know how to tell you which is worse" (p. 1). What does this mean? Why doesn't Hannah know how to tell which is worse? What prevents her?
  • Both Amos and Conary die tragically at young ages. What are the similarities and differences between the two deaths?
  • Much of the tension in More Than You Know derives from knowledge and mystery. What do characters' relationships to the search for truth and truth itself reveal about each character? What is your relationship to the truth in this nove?
  • Misunderstandings and arguments between Edith and her stepdaughter leave Hannah feeling utterly alone and desperate to get out of the house. What is Sallie's relationship with her mother? What role do Hannah's and Sallie's rather detached fathers play in their daughters' lives?
  • Hooks probes the gap between the values many people "claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connecting thought and action, theory and practice" (p. 90). How does our culture reward those who nurture this gap? What changes would we have to make in society to nurture and inspire the closing of this gap?
  • Why does the ghost serve as the catalyst for Conary's death just as he's chosen to return to Dundee with Hannah?
  • If Hannah is the narrator of her own story, and if Mercy takes over the telling of the Haskell family story with excerpts taken from her manuscript, who is the narrator from whom Mercy's manuscript takes over? Who is telling that story? What is the effect of switching perspectives?
  • Discuss the way in which Beth Gutcheon uses music in this novel.
  • Hannah, Claris, and Sallie struggle with their families and feel hemmed in by parental strictures. How do their familial relationships prepare them for love? Is romantic love any less true if it serves as the vehicle for escape from troubles at home?
  • What binds the two stories together? Is it an accident of geography, or is there a greater force at work?
  • "I know there are feelings that survive death, but can they all? What if only the bitterest and most selfish are strong enough?" (p. 266) are Hannah's final questions. Does the novel provide answers?
Recommended Further ReadingThe House of the Spirits
Isabelle Allende The Laughing Place
Pam Durban Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine
Ann Hood The Inn at Lake Devine
Elinor Lipman Evening
Susan Minot While I Was Gone
Sue Miller Beloved
Toni Morrison Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allen Poe Drinking the Rain
Alix Kates Shulman This is my Daughter
Roxana Robinson Ethan Frome
Edith Wharton


About the Author: Beth Gutcheon is the critically acclaimed author of five novels: The New Girls, Still Missing, Domestic Pleasures, Saying Grace, and Five Fortunes. She is the writer of several film scripts, including the Academy Award nominee "The Children of Theatre Street." She lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

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(16)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2000

    enchanting novel

    more than you know is told in the voice of an older woman who believes in love and ghosts. It's both a ghost and a love story that is bewitching and keeps you going. it opens your heart as well as your mind. must read

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    I loved this book. It was a great summer read. I wish they had i

    I loved this book. It was a great summer read. I wish they had it in E-book format, I would love to lend it to my friends.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    Suspensful and Romantic

    This book was a very quick read for me........two days. It's a story of true love and perservereance in one part and a murder mystery in another. Told in flashback I just couldn't put it down, I had to find out what happened to the lovestruck teens and who the ghost is. Warning don't start reading if you have alot of other things to do, because they will be neglected once you start this book:)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2008

    I loved this book!

    I thought this book was a timeless classic. Parts of it were depressing, but then again every great book has to be slightly depressing to make it good. I loved everything about it. This book showed me what true love really looks like. :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    Excellent

    More Than You Know is a great mixture of suspense, mystery, and romance. In the story it first deals with the mystery of the town, then these two teenagers fall in love while trying to figure the mystery of the town murder about 75 years earlier. While all of this is going on the girl,named Hannah, keeps encountering a ghost that makes a terrible weeping noise, but Hannah and Conary(the boy she falls in love with) are the only ones who hear it. It's a great story with a twist at the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    Highly recommended.

    Great Reading.

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    Very good read.

    First Gutcheon book I've read.
    A great love story that, at times, makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up while chills are running up your legs.
    Looking forward to reading Gutcheon's latest book now.

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  • Posted October 18, 2013

    loved it

    A sweet and poignant read about the redemption and tragedy of of true love. Worth the read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2010

    BOrrring

    i had high hopes for this book - the first quote is lovely. the book is boring and goes no where.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2008

    Could Be Better

    More Than You Know has an interesting story line that focuses on two different stories in two different eras. Each story has something that grabs the reader, however I believe more character development could have been used.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2006

    Beautiful and haunting story

    This book was great. It told two tales without one lacking in anything. The tale of Hannah and Conary was so beautiful, I felt as if I became Hannah and was in love with Conary. The book left me in tears and wishing it would never end. Overall it was one of the BEST books I have ever read! read it and pass it on.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2006

    Haunting love/ghost story from Gutcheon

    Beth Gutcheon's More Than You Know is a truly great example of mixed genre writing. Just gorgeous. Loved every page and wouldn't change a thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2004

    Awesome!

    This book was excellent. I have had my eye on the storyline for a while, and finally purchased the book. Gutcheon did a great job of keeping the reader involved, and the title leaves everything wide open for discovery. I still will read this book many times again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2004

    It's Still in my Head!

    Until I got into it, I had no idea there was a ghost involved..VERY SCARY! You just can't put it down. And the love story, I wish I had that, minus the death part.I'm still putting all of the twists together and can't find a new book that keeps so entertained!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2003

    Couldn't put it down

    Was looking for another book when I found this and boy, am I glad. Characters, pacing, dialogue, setting all excellent. I'm a very hard sell and I couldn't put this down. If you think about it, you'll see some holes in the plotting, but don't analyze, just enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2002

    What a spellbinding book!

    I had such a hard time putting this book down, especially late at night when I knew I should be getting some sleep. Gutcheon's style of writing took some getting used to, but I loved this book and would definately recommend it to others. It is such a strong story that captures the imagination.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2002

    I read this book in two sittings!!

    Excellent book, I couldn't hardly put it down. In parts, I could almost hear my heart beating wildly!! Has a very haunting quality. I would definately recommend this to others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2001

    Couldn't Stop Reading This One

    What a joy to find a book in this day in age that I couldn't put down until I knew how it ended. An easy read! Each piece of both stories keep you captivated by this wonderful story of suspense, adventure, and true love. You find yourself getting drawn into one story, wanting to know more, then you leap into the other with just as much involvment. When you don't want one story to end, you are excited to see the other story to begin. A very unique way of writing, bringing a past and present love together, I just could not put this book down. The ending threw me, and it makes you think. I think anyone who reads this could relate to that love of a life time, and the love everyone warns you about. A very pleasant read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2000

    I Wish it were longer

    I haven't read a book in a long time I was upset to see end. 2 stories told in different times that strangely connect to each other. So real I thougt I heard the same things she heard in the story and so moving, that at times I couldn't deal with putting it down... A certain must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2000

    My Review

    A wonderful book. Gutcheon creates a relationship between two stories, and two diffrent people, that makes you want to keep reading. The ending is very suprising and haunting. I would reccomend this book to anyone.

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