DeYoung’s debut novel unfolds as Richard Hatfield’s adult remembrance of the summer he spent with his large extended family in the eponymous estate in Maine when he was 13. The year is 1928, and Richard is the youngest of the many cousins; sexy and mysterious Francesca is the eldest, at 21. Richard gains information via “shameless eavesdropping” and then decides who would be best served by revealing what he’s heard. Betrayal is the name of the game, whether it concerns Uncle Kurt’s lies about hunting or Tom’s time “on the couch of Venus” with a beautiful neighbor, making his devoted cousin Yvette jealous. Most of the book is narrated at a remove by Richard reciting and contextualizing his memories, which are occasionally illustrated by scenes. The reader feels the climactic crisis coming early on, and is exhausted and less than shocked by the time it arrives. DeYoung (A Vision of Modern Science) breaks no new ground in either narrative or style but does evoke the Maine of this era well, with a parade of sensory detail. Agent: Lisa Grubka, Foundry Literary + Media. (July)
In summer 1928, Richard Killing, an only child used to hovering on the margins of life, is thrilled to be spending the season in Maine with ten cousins and three aunts. Grateful to be included in the games and intrigues of the older kids, he trades on his eavesdropping skills—until those skills cost him his innocence and lead to a horrible accident. An older Richard recounts the summer, dragging out details to delay coming to the moment of his guilt, the event that will separate him from his cousins forever. VERDICT In this debut novel by the author of A Vision of Modern Science, Richard's deep remorse and burden of guilt, even in the face of later forgiveness, permeate the narrative. For those who prefer their coming-of-age tales with a darker bent. [For other period-set coming-of-age novels with young narrators, see also Elizabeth Kelly's The Last Summer of the Camperdowns and Anton DiSclafani's The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.—Ed.]—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
PRAISE FOR SHORECLIFF:
"Divine. . . . A delicious summer read. . . . Shorecliff gives readers a vivid picture of what happens when a sprawling family spends time in close quarters. Although set nearly a century ago on a picturesque Maine estate, DeYoung's novel is immediate and familiar, and her character development is nothing short of brilliant."
"DeYoung's vivid evocation of a summer home in Maine along with the enthralling, flawed members of the extended Hatfield clan held me captive from the very first page to the electrifying conclusion. Shorecliff reads like the work of a seasoned veteran of the form, not a debut novelist."
"I was swept away from the very first page, captivated by the Hatfields as they teeter between beauty and loss of innocence in one dreamlike summer. DeYoung's writing glitters with clarity, confidence, and depth, all the way to the book's stunning ending. A debut of a wonderful new literary voice."
"This exceptional novel is reminiscent of the grand family classics of the nineteenth century. DeYoung manages a large cast--every one of them vital and unique--with deft timing. And with exquisite skill, she reveals calamitous events, enticing the reader with tidbits about what is to come. I look forward to future novels from this gifted author."
Oxford Ph.D. DeYoung's debut novel about an extended family's summer at the Maine shore in 1928 captures the mood and morals of a bygone era but intermittently stalls in the telling. Thirteen-year-old Richard Killing II's retrospective account of a family gathering at Shorecliff, his mother's old family home, is filled with longing, love and regret as he remembers a fateful summer in a house filled with relatives. Richard is the youngest of 11 cousins, an only child who longs to join in the easy camaraderie that exists among the others, but he often feels invisible because of his youth and awkwardness. Thrilled to be spending the summer with them--a period of time that some of the older cousins resent, as they're dragged away from their friends and other activities at home--Richard and his mother travel to Shorecliff, where he takes up residence in a small attic room. His father, a dour, judgmental attorney, doesn't accompany them, much to Richard's relief, although he shows up for a few days later in the summer. Richard's happy to spend time with his Uncle Kurt and cousin Pamela, who's only a bit older than he, but he desperately wants to be noticed and accepted by the older cousins. They recognize that Richard has a valuable--if dubious--skill: He eavesdrops on conversations. And it's not too difficult to get him to spill the beans since, in those moments, he gets to bask in the spotlight. Richard not only snoops on his uncles and aunts, he also observes and mentally records his cousins' activities: Tom, the golden boy, becomes besotted with a local girl; beautiful, spirited Francesca enlists malleable Charlie to become part of her rebellious escapades; Delia and Cordelia (the Delias) plot to release a tamed fox into the wild. As the summer wears on, Richard's narration sometimes becomes mired in too much detail, but he always manages to get back to the heart of his affecting story. Some of his revelations seem innocent enough, but others are bombshells that change the dynamics of the family, shift individual perspectives and serve as catalysts for the events that follow. DeYoung's engrossing conclusion and exquisite tone make wading through the extraneous passages worth the effort.