The Weight of Waterby Anita Shreve
In 1873, on a small, bleak island off the rich fishing coast of New Hampshire, two Norwegian women are murdered in a fit of brutal passion. A third, Maren Hontvedt, escapes to witness a local man's execution for the crime. More than a century later, Jean, a Boston photo-journalist, travels to the island on a research assignment to investigate the murder legend. Collecting material from a library, she stumbles upon Maren's translated memoirs, carefully preserved among the faded photographs, mildewed letters and yellowing guidebooks of the Isle of Shoals archives.
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The Weight of Water
By Anita Shreve
Little Brown & CompanyCopyright © 1997 Anita Shreve
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI have to let this story go. It is with me all the time now, a terrible weight.
I sit in the harbor and look across to Smuttynose. A pink light, a stain, makes its way across the island. I cut the engine of the small boat I have rented and put my fingers into the water, letting the shock of the cold swallow my hand. I move my hand through the seawater, and think how the ocean, this harbor, is a repository of secrets, its own elegy.
I was here before. A year ago. I took photographs of the island, of vegetation that had dug in against the weather: black sedge and bayberry and sheep sorrel and sea blite. The island is not barren, but it is sere and bleak. It is granite, and everywhere there are ragged reefs that cut. To have lived on Smuttynose would have required a particular tenacity, and I imagine the people then as dug in against the elements, their roots set into the cracks of the rocks like the plants that still survive.
The house in which the two women were murdered burned in 1885, but when I was here a year ago, I photographed the footprint of the house, the marked perimeter. I got into a boat and took pictures of the whitened ledges of Smuttynose and the black-backed gulls that swept and rose above the island in search of fish only they could see. When I was herebefore, there were yellow roses and blackberries.
When I was here before, something awful was being assembled, but I didn't know it then.
I take my hand from the water and let the drops fall upon the papers in the carton, dampened already at the edges from the slosh. The pink light turns to violet.
Sometimes I think that if it were possible to tell a story often enough to make the hurt ease up, to make the words slide down my arms and away from me like water, I would tell that story a thousand times.
Excerpted from The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve Copyright © 1997 by Anita Shreve
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.