Where or When

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Overview

Charles Callahan is reading the Sunday paper when an alluring and oddly familiar photo catches his eye: it is Sian Richards, his first love, a face he has not seen for more than three decades. He is entranced by her image, flooded by memories of their teenage summer together, and utterly conpelled to make contact with her again. Charles sends Sian a letter, knowing all the while that "from the very first sentence of the very first note there was nothing innocent about it." Sian writes back - she is now a poet ...
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1994 AUDIO CASSETTE Good Audio Book 7 RELIABLE audio cassettes in the clamshell case withdrawn from the library collection. Some library sticker and markings to the box. The ... tapes sits in an individual slots, sturdy and presentable. Each cassette is tested for clarity of sound prior to shipping. Enjoy this audio cassette performance! Read more Show Less

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Overview

Charles Callahan is reading the Sunday paper when an alluring and oddly familiar photo catches his eye: it is Sian Richards, his first love, a face he has not seen for more than three decades. He is entranced by her image, flooded by memories of their teenage summer together, and utterly conpelled to make contact with her again. Charles sends Sian a letter, knowing all the while that "from the very first sentence of the very first note there was nothing innocent about it." Sian writes back - she is now a poet living with her husband and small child on an onion farm in Pennsylvania. She is intrigued that Charles has sought her out after so many years but wary of where their correspondence might lead. For Charles, troubled by financial woes, on the verge of losing his home, and concerned about the security of his family, the letters become a secret obsession and another source of instability in his already complicated life. Despite their reservations, the power of Charles and Sian's attraction leads them to meet again . . . and again. As Charles understands it, "for the two of them, eros is linked with time. It is the very urgency of time he dreads, the sense that their minutes together are short and numbered, that he must say what he has come to say before she leaves, that gestures and words cannot be wasted." Anita Shreve takes the classic theme of Romeo and Juliet and gives it an unusual twist: two lovers struggle against formidable odds, reaching across a lifetime to reclaim what they once lost. In doing so, they set in motion a tumultuous series of events that moves inexorably to a shocking conclusion.

A fiery, destructive affair begins when a businessman happens upon a picture of an old flame. Their passion is rekindled, beginning a powerful relationship that turns into dark obsession.

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Isaacs
Throughout this finely wrought book, Ms. Shreve manages to keep the reader suspended between despair and hope...
The New York Times Book Review, 1993
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A potent and affecting tale of middle-aged passion from the author of Eden Close. Oct.
Library Journal
Sian Richards and Charles Callahan met 31 years ago at camp and had a summer romance. Charles sees Sian's picture in a newspaper advertising her new book. He is in a loveless marriage and is facing the failure of his business. Charles writes to Sian and discovers that she is in a similar situation. They decide to meet and-despite grave misgivings-soon have an affair. Predictably, the affair brings destruction instead of happiness to our lovers. The first half of this audiobook, which features the pair's correspondence, makes for great listening. However, the narrative becomes confusing shortly after the two meet: the listener must keep track of numerous conversations, letters, and remembrances about camp. Gregory Harrison and Judith Ivey alternate as narrators as the action shifts from Charles's perspective to Sian's. Both readers give creditable performances. Recommended for large audio collections or wherever Shreve is popular.-Danna C. Bell-Russel, Dist. of Columbia P.L.
Susan Isaacs
Throughout this finely wrought book, Ms. Shreve manages to keep the reader suspended between despair and hope...
The New York Times Book Review, 1993
From the Publisher
"Throughout this finely wrought book, Ms. Shreve manages to keep the reader suspended between despair and hope for Siân and Charles. But Where or When is more than just an exquisitely written novel. It is also a gripping yarn."-The New York Times Book Review

"Ms. Shreve writes with a delicate restraint that lends force and immediacy to this somberly romantic story."-The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736627597
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 7 Cassettes

Meet the Author

Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Fortune's Rocks, The Pilot's Wife, The Weight of Water, Resistance, Eden Close, and Where or When. She teaches at Amherst College and lives in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.

Biography

For many readers, the appeal of Anita Shreve’s novels is their ability to combine all of the escapist elements of a good beach read with the kind of thoughtful complexity not generally associated with romantic fiction. Shreve’s books are loaded with enough adultery, eroticism, and passion to make anyone keep flipping the pages, but the writer whom People magazine once dubbed a “master storyteller” is also concerned with the complexities of her characters’ motivations, relationships, and lives.

Shreve’s novels draw on her diverse experiences as a teacher and journalist: she began writing fiction while teaching high school, and was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her story, “Past the Island, Drifting.” She then spent several years working as a journalist in Africa, and later returned to the States to raise her children. In the 1980s, she wrote about women’s issues, which resulted in two nonfiction books -- Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone -- before breaking into mainstream fiction with Eden Close in 1989.

This interest in women’s lives -- their struggles and success, families and friendships -- informs all of Shreve’s fiction. The combination of her journalist’s eye for detail and her literary ear for the telling turn of phrase mean that Shreve can spin a story that is dense, atmospheric, and believable. Shreve incorporates the pull of the sea -- the inexorable tides, the unpredictable surf -- into her characters’ lives the way Willa Cather worked the beauty and wildness of the Midwestern plains into her fiction. In Fortune’s Rocks and The Weight of Water, the sea becomes a character itself, evocative and ultimately consuming. In Sea Glass, Shreve takes the metaphor as far as she can, where characters are tested again and again, only to emerge stronger by surviving the ravages of life.

A domestic sensualist, Shreve makes use of the emblems of household life to a high degree, letting a home tell its stories just as much as its inhabitants do, and even recycling the same house through different books and periods of time, giving it a sort of palimpsest effect, in which old stories burn through the newer ones, creating a historical montage. "A house with any kind of age will have dozens of stories to tell," she says. "I suppose if a novelist could live long enough, one could base an entire oeuvre on the lives that weave in and out of an antique house."

Shreve’s work is sometimes categorized as “women’s fiction,” because of her focus on women’s sensibilties and plights. But her evocative and precise language and imagery take her beyond category fiction, and moderate the vein of sentimentality which threads through her books. Moreover, her kaleidoscopic view of history, her iron grip on the details and detritus of 19th-century life (which she sometimes intersperses with a 20th-century story), and her uncanny ability to replicate 19th-century dialogue without sounding fusty or fussy, make for novels that that are always absorbing and often riveting. If she has a flaw, it is that her imagery is sometimes too cinematic, but one can hardly fault her for that: after all, the call of Hollywood is surely as strong as the call of the sea for a writer as talented as Shreve.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Charles first saw Siân at summer camp thirty-one years ago, and

    Charles first saw Siân at summer camp thirty-one years ago, and he fell in love. He never really lost memory or longing of her, even though they never saw each other again after those few fateful, scorching weeks they spent together; so when he comes across her photograph serendipitously while flicking through a literary magazine, his world begins to spin in a new direction. He needs to see her. Forget the wife, forget the kids—he needs Sîan. His sinking business and financial security set the tone of this gloomy, cryptic novel; little does he know that they will mark his failure, as well as his downfall.

    I couldn't really get into this one because I couldn't connect with the characters. Each of them are most intimately portrayed by Shreve's dense, flowery prose, but they still seem too detached, too cold. The power of first love—and in that, the illusion of romanticized childhood—is expertly detailed upon, but emotionally, personally... Charles and Sîan are a let-down.

    I have mixed feelings about the writing style; on one hand, it's gorgeously crafted, but on the other, it's kind of rambly, descriptive in unnecessary places and too vague in others. There's a quaint perceptiveness in Shreve's penmanship that's both distant and generic; I liked this, but it hinders the story's progress, so overall Where or When was sort of difficult to read.

    The blithe bay setting, with brief flashes of Rhode Island and of east coast beaches, is nice. Nothing powerful, but definitely appropriate for the content and style: hazy, breezy, and static.

    Ah, but the ending—what in the world?? Unfulfilling, miserable, wretched thing! I like the take on the tragic ending, but the way the author decided to terminate the connection between the two lovers, not so much. I feel like there was a better path she could have taken, so the ending was what finally ruined the story for me.

    The affliction over an impossible love permeates throughout this book—from the first page, to the last. Even in the title, is a direct allusion: it's where or when, but never and, never both, which signifies how the self-serving motives and foolishly insatiable desires of the human heart will eventually lead to catastrophe.

    Pros: Intimacy between characters, and between characters and readers // Lush prose // Breezy east coast backdrop // Interesting storyline about childhood lovers

    Cons: Unmoving // Terrible ending // Style is syrupy; hard to read // Just didn't affect me in any which way

    Verdict: Where or When is a futile account of a mistaken love that consumes two very unhappy individuals. I say futile because there is nothing about it that's touching or engaging; it's just a flat story with flat characters, and I put it down having gained very little. It does however, contain Anita Shreve's exquisite prose, and well-interprets the tragedy of time, of timing. This wasn't a completely deplorable read, but I don't care for it much, and wouldn't recommend it.

    5 out of 10 hearts (3 stars): Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book.

    Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2007

    Unlikable Characters, a Cautionary Tale

    While I have enjoyed every Anita Shreve novel I've laid my hands on to date, this one is the first that left me feeling flat. My feeling was that these people weren't really so much in love with each other as grasping at some kind of straw of hope for themselves out of desperation. Charles is in a financial mess and on the brink of foreclosure, standing to lose both his business and his home. His marriage lacks passion, but the few irritants he can claim about his wife (she rarely puts on music for herself to enjoy while he listens to music all the time she sets goals each day and accomplishes them while he spends a lot of time just staring out at the ocean) are hardly worth mentioning. Even without the affair, he comes across as a selfish boor, not bothering to include her in his risky financial decisions that got them where they are, or even filling her in on the serious state they were in. Did it even occur to him that she might offer to go back to work to help out??? Suddenly he stumbles on a picture of a woman he met and fell in love with when he went to a summer camp for a week 31 years earlier (at the age of 14 no less!) and he's ready to throw his family aside and run off with her. Sian was a little more sympathetic a character, but again, I felt she was not so much in love as trying to grab onto something to make her forget her sad empty life. Her marriage is also dead or dying, she and her husband staying together seemingly out of a shared sorrow of losing their young son at the age of nine. Her future on a failing onion farm with an emotionally distant husband seems bleak. The fact that neither Charles nor Sian ever made the effort to reconnect as young adults makes it hard to believe that this 'romance' was born from memories of a lost true love, but rather one fabricated out of desperation. One wonders if Charles were in a good situation financially if he would have reacted differently to seeing Sian's picture after all those years. That he hadn't thought about her in years is telling. Several people's lives get ruined because of their obsession, and all along they know this will happen. Selfish, pitiful people. Give me some characters I can like!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2007

    A reviewer

    i was attracted to the book merely from its description and once i began to read i couldnt put it down. the book definitely raises questions about the extent a person or persons will go for the sake of love, even if it means unjustly hurting those around them. i think that to say at 14 you cant have a love that sticks with you can only be made by someone who hasnt had the kind of love these characters shared. if you have ever had a piece of TRUE love, a very rare thing in this world, then you get it. if not, then its just another love story. i am very confused by the ending however. i dont completely understand where things were left. too much is left unsaid that i find myself disappointed. the story was so built up that i found the ending to be very unsatisfying. im still glad i read it, but i wish there were a few more chapters!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2005

    Disappointment

    I couldn't wait to read this book -- the topic sounded fascinating! Who doesn't have daydreams about 'what if'? But the characters left me disappointed -- Charles, especially, was a bit on the pathetic side, a whiny baby. The subject itself would have been much better had the 14 year olds been older -- even 16 or 17. I don't recommend this book. Maybe once I get over my disappointment, I'll try another book by this author but I'll definitely read the reviews first.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2000

    Page turn novel

    Having read a number of Anita Shreve's novels, I really enjoyed this one the best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2000

    Page-turner from Beginning to End

    This book is so captivating and reaches every emotion a book possibly can. Anita takes writing love stories to another level. The surprise at the end is totally unexpected it makes you want to go back and read it again from the moment you finish. I strongly recommend this book!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 1999

    Dreamlike Desire

    Shreve takes you into a dream like state amd has you think about all your past loves and flirt with the idea of reconnecting. The glorious feeling of returning to a familiar place with a lover that has kept an idealized picture of you across all the years is tempered with the awlful destruction the affair has on all the families. The ending is unexpected but serves as a cautionary reminder of the consequences of playing with fire. I felt the dreamy sommulant nature of the writing made me feel the languid sensuality and increasing tension. I loved the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    I thought this book was well written, but I didn't really buy th

    I thought this book was well written, but I didn't really buy the premise of the story - that these two characters who met for a week when they were fourteen could really, truly be in love. I didn't really buy that these two people were destined to be together. It seemed that both of them were merely trying to escape from their own unhappy lives, but instead it's written as this great love affair between two souls who missed their chance to be together.

    I actually liked the ending, and I suppose there's really no other way such a bleak story could have ended, though I would have liked a bit more of a denouement.

    A note on the Nook edition of this book: the editing was HORRIBLE. There were lots of typos, missing words and punctuation. If I'd realized this, I would probably not have bought it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Our book club choose this book for our May meeting. I would not

    Our book club choose this book for our May meeting. I would not recommend this book to anyone. Very disappointing. Characters are not people you would want to know. Felt I wasted my time reading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2009

    Somehow Hard to Believe

    The first thing I thought about when getting into this book was, "Come on.....a love affair from an encounter at camp when they were 14!?!?" Seemed a little hard to believe and could never really get beyond that throughout the whole book. Then there was the downhill spiral that was hard to stomach....the "love" the characters felt just seemed a little too obsessive, unrealistic, and self-destructive. So all in all, I'd say it was certainly an entertaining read, but not one that I would recommend or even remember years from now....

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Anita does it again!

    Anita Shreve writes a love story of love "gone missing" and then found with all of its twists and turns. This is the story of a young boy and girl, Charles and Sian, their brief summer romance and the years between, and subsequent meeting again. Although its on "tricky" moral ground, (really, how much sympathy/empathy can you have for a couple intent on a full-blown affair), Anita draws you into their lives and leaves you gasping at the end. (And no, absolutely NOT, am I going to fess' up to how this one ends).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2006

    UNFORGETABLE ROMANCE NEEDS SEQUEL

    Charles' and Sian's story was absolutely riveting! I couldn't put the book down. I'm begging you to please write a sequel to fix the rest of their lives! I've read tons of books, but have never had a story stay with me as long as this one has - after I finished reading it! I look forward to a comment about a sequel!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2006

    it should have been better...

    The premise is great with one main fault,14 is a little young to base an everlasting romance on. If the romance was so hot then they should have sought each other out in their late teens. I felt the characters where very depressed and depressing. The extremes the characters took for one another after just a few weeks of reconnect is unbelievable. I would have found Charles to be a stalker if I received those letters after 31 years! Oh, and don't mail me your dirty shirt do your own laundry!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2006

    Big Dissapointment from Shreve

    I loved 'The Pilot's Wife'. I couldn't wait to read this book. I couldn't get into the characters..they were unbelievable and pathetic. They met at 14 and all of a sudden couldn't wait to meet again. I felt like Charles was stalking Sian..and his character seemed very unstable, not in love. I know the author was trying to make me feel bad for the two lovebirds, but I ended up feeling sorry for their seperate families they were destroying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2005

    Interesting Read

    I thought this book was very interesting. I couldn't put it down. I truly felt for the characters and the hopeless position they found themselves in. Like all of Shreve's other books, this is a definite page turner and you won't believe the ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2005

    From an Anita Shreve fan

    I've read all of her books and this one, among others, sticks with you. Shreve really gets to the core of the characters in this book. Charles is not pathetic but realistic. He is a man who knows he is about to lose everything and choses to cling to a woman from his past that could have made his present complete instead of lacking. The characters are real down to the nitty-gritty and I love them for that. Shreve has again blown us away with her poetic writing and wonderful imagination.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2004

    NOT SHREVE'S BEST WORK

    I've read several of Anita Shreve's novels and have never been disappointed until I read this one. If this is the first Shreve book you've read, give her another chance! Read Fortune's Rocks - you will not put it down. In Where or When, Charles is just a bit too pathetic. I think the downward spiral he allows himself to fall into with Sian is due to his sense of hopelessness about his life in general, not necessarily out of his love for Sian. I had a very hard time believing that two 45 year-olds would instantly fall into lust after 31 years of not knowing each other. And I also couldn't buy that they were basing this affair on the fact that they knew each other for one week as 14 year-olds. If their characters would have been 18-20 when they first met, it would have been far more plausible.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2003

    Read it with an open heart

    This is a story about obsession, hopelessness and despair. This is a story about Charles and Sian. A chance sighting of a photo of his first love awakes in him feeling and memories thought to have been deeply buried. Impulsively, he writes to her and set in motion a string of correspondences and the love affair that is to follow. Is it love they experience 30 years ago? What to do when the floodgate of memories has been broken through? Instead of swimming pass those memories, Charles sinks himself into them and temporary `forgets¿ his present life ¿ his wife, children and the financial crisis he¿s facing. Indeed, this book seems to want us to feel exactly what the two lovers felt -- ignore the sense of time and realities. Is it up to us to judge them? I guess not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    Not One of Her Better Ones

    The first two books I read by Anita Shreve were the Pilot's Wife and The Last Time They Met. I loved both, and found the latter to be brilliant, which is why I picked up this book. This one was honestly among the worst books I've ever read - there was nothing gripping about the plot nor were the characters even remotely captivating. The entire book was too melodramatic and whiny for me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    Ok to read

    It's the first book I've read from this author. It was something that can happen in real life... true love is never forgotten. But in all honesty.. I haven't picked up one of her books after finishing this one. It's not that exciting.

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