Rowing in Edenby Barbara Rogan
ROWING IN EDENSam is not the only tormented soul in the tiny upstate village of Old Wickham. There's also Peter Quinn, a brilliant, troubled fourteen-year-old with quick fists, no past, and a truckload of attitude. Although a judge found him innocent, Peter knows better. Some things, he figures, "it don't matter why you did 'em, only that you did 'em."
On its surface, Old Wickham, New York, is a Norman Rockwell montage of red-cheeked youngsters skating on ponds, dogs frolicking in the snow, and villagers huddled around wood-burning stoves. Yet someone in this idyllic community has been setting fires. Suspicions divide the village along the usual fault lines. Scapegoats are sought, outsiders shunned. The back room of the country store gives rise to a Greek chorus of collective rage. In this crucible of distrust, unlooked for alliances are forged, old alliances are tested, and no one emerges unchanged.
Alice Hoffman hails Barbara Rogan as a "masterful story teller." The New York Times praises her as a passionate writer whose prose is "as vivid as lightning bolts." Now, with Rowing in Eden, a morally complex story about friendship, love, marriage, and family -- in other words, all the things that matter most -- Barbara Rogan not only fulfills but generously exceeds the expectations of fans and reviewers alike.
The opening line sets the pace: "Even though she'd asked for it, Sam Pollak could not help feeling guilty the day he killed his wife." But it's not what you think. Sam's wife Louise has cancer, and he puts her out of her misery at her own request. All the same, Sam is haunted by what he's done, and his guilt compounds his grief to a degree that makes his own life seem unbearable and pointless. A cabinetmaker and carpenter, Sam tries to lose himself in his work, and this brings him into the orbit of Jane Goncalves, a Manhattan social worker who's bought an old house in Sam's upstate village to use as a home for her foster children. While he works on the house, however, some of the local yahoos start agitating to run the children out of town, blaming them for a string of arsons that began as soon as they arrived. Sam keeps out of the politics for a while, but once he takes on one of Jane's children as an assistant, he's quickly drawn into the conflict. His own obsession with Louise's death, moreover, is nourished by a string of anonymous telephone calls he begins to receive late at night from someone who declares, "I know what you did." A defrocked rabbi, a Brooklyn homegirl, several troubled yet adorable street urchins, a horny postmistress, and a gay football player provide some silly digressions from Sam's story. By the end, though he's not been healed of his loss, it's evident that the worst is behind him.
Mawkish and overblown: Despite some good characters and a smooth voice, the sentiments are obvious to the point of caricature.
- Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author
ROWING IN EDENBarbara Rogan is the author of four previous novels, Changing States, Cafe Nevo, Saving Grace, and A Heartbeat Away. She lives on Long Island, New York, and is currently at work on her sixth novel.
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