Secret Harmonies

Secret Harmonies

by Andrea Barrett, Wenniger
     
 

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Andrea Barrett’s novels have received resounding critical acclaim, inspiring comparisons to Gail Godwin and Anne Tyler. In Secret Harmonies, she creates a wonderful portrait of a family struggling to make sense of their lives in the rural hills of western Massachusetts. When childhood sweethearts Reba Dwyer and Luke Wyatt marry, they expect no

Overview

Andrea Barrett’s novels have received resounding critical acclaim, inspiring comparisons to Gail Godwin and Anne Tyler. In Secret Harmonies, she creates a wonderful portrait of a family struggling to make sense of their lives in the rural hills of western Massachusetts. When childhood sweethearts Reba Dwyer and Luke Wyatt marry, they expect no surprises. But now that Luke—friend of Reba’s childhood, friend of her heart—is her husband, discord enters their lives. Secret Harmonies is the utterly absorbing, moving story of what happens to this couple and to the eccentric constellation of loved ones swirling around them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A superior novel.... Andrea Barrett has succeeded in capturing the complicated rhythms... of a symphony in this simply told tale about relatively simple people just trying to live. What happens to them happens to all of us, one way or another.”

“An elegant, poetic prose style; dazzling imagery; a subtle understanding of the complexities of personality; and an ability to look unflinchingly at the compromises people make with life and yet retain compassion and affection for her characters.”

Secret Harmonies continues to establish Andrea Barrett as a strong voice in contemporary literature. The writing is almost flawless, and the story told is believable and absorbing. Barrett has the ability to pull emotions from her readers with an unrelenting instinct for what is true and for how human beings experience life.... Simple but lyrical prose that will remind readers of Anne Tyler. Barrett's gift is her understanding of her characters. They... draw the reader passionately into their stories. That, of course, is what literature is supposed to be about, and it is a pleasure to read an author like Barrett who not only understands this, but has the talent and the magic to make it hapen.”

“Fine writing.... Barrett really does know about the secret harmonies that hum below the surface of family life.”

“From the title... to its last page, music is the motif of Secret Harmonies—as food for the soul, a spur to memory, an element of order within chaos.... Passages of lyrical power.”

Washington Post Book World
“A superior novel.... Andrea Barrett has succeeded in capturing the complicated rhythms... of a symphony in this simply told tale about relatively simple people just trying to live. What happens to them happens to all of us, one way or another.”
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
“An elegant, poetic prose style; dazzling imagery; a subtle understanding of the complexities of personality; and an ability to look unflinchingly at the compromises people make with life and yet retain compassion and affection for her characters.”
Orlando Sentinel
Secret Harmonies continues to establish Andrea Barrett as a strong voice in contemporary literature. The writing is almost flawless, and the story told is believable and absorbing. Barrett has the ability to pull emotions from her readers with an unrelenting instinct for what is true and for how human beings experience life.... Simple but lyrical prose that will remind readers of Anne Tyler. Barrett's gift is her understanding of her characters. They... draw the reader passionately into their stories. That, of course, is what literature is supposed to be about, and it is a pleasure to read an author like Barrett who not only understands this, but has the talent and the magic to make it hapen.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“From the title... to its last page, music is the motif of Secret Harmonies—as food for the soul, a spur to memory, an element of order within chaos.... Passages of lyrical power.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poignant and atmospheric, this book honors the promise of Lucid Stars , Barrett's well-received first novel. Charismatic Reba Dwyer, flanked and buttressed by brother Hank, a shy, late bloomer, sister Tonia, who has Down's Syndrome, and best friend Luke Wyatt, hangs out in meager Massachusetts hill country until she meets Jessie Thayer, a girl with framed pictures on her walls, matching linens and dotted-swiss bedspreads. Ignoring past alliances, Reba joins Jessie in disreputable escapades and, when the friendship flounders, escapes to urban respectability. But her fellow conservatory students find Reba oddly feral, so, when she is summoned home because her father has left, Reba embraces her heritage, becomes pregnant, marries Luke, and has shallow affairs to distract herself from the fact that, like her father, who absorbs life as sounds, she must come to terms with inner music. Elegant, accessible writing transforms Reba's potentially trite passage from self-denial to self-acceptance into fine reading. First serial to Mademoiselle. (Oct.)
Library Journal
``Just sing the melody, Reba had said. I'll pick up the harmony. But he couldn't sing.'' So there will be neither melody nor harmony in her marriage with Luke, her best friend from childhood. Reba, who hears the wind sing in A-minor chords and the radiator hum in E, cannot hear the devotion or pain in the voice of her husband. Beginning with a marvelous evocation of autumn in New England and an eccentric, musical family, the book segues into just another story about a self-centered, cheating wife. Even her host of whimsical, lovable relatives cannot quite save Reba--or the book. What a disappointment, especially after Barrett's successful debut with Lucid Stars ( LJ 10/1/89).-- Maurice Taylor, Brunswick Cty. Lib., Southport, N.C.
Carolyn See
"Andrea Barrett's characters are set out with meticulous care....Secret Harmonies is remarkably touching."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671731373
Publisher:
Washington Square Press
Publication date:
03/01/1991
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
0.58(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Meet the Author

Andrea Barrett is the author of Archangel, The Air We Breathe, Servants of the Map (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Voyage of the Narwhal, Ship Fever (winner of the National Book Award), and other books. She teaches at Williams College and lives in northwestern Massachusetts.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
November 16, 1954
Place of Birth:
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Education:
B.A., Union College
Website:
http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall01/004348.htm

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