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Where or When

Where or When

3.4 41
by Anita Shreve

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Charles Callahan, a faithfully married businessman, chances upon a newspaper photograph of a woman he loved 30 years ago. Unable to resist, he writes her, a poet living with her husband and two children.

Powerfully drawn together again, the two lovers grapple with issues they never expected to face: the nature of erotic love and betrayal, the agony of lost years,


Charles Callahan, a faithfully married businessman, chances upon a newspaper photograph of a woman he loved 30 years ago. Unable to resist, he writes her, a poet living with her husband and two children.

Powerfully drawn together again, the two lovers grapple with issues they never expected to face: the nature of erotic love and betrayal, the agony of lost years, bewildering moral quandaries in an age of shifting values, and the elusive nature of time.

"An affecting novel that will attract readers of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, it offers the further rewards of psychologically nuanced characterizations and a thoughtful exploration of the relationship between sexuality and time." (Publishers Weekly)

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.)
Denise Perry Donavin
Charles Callahan, torn apart by an impending bankruptcy that he has not yet revealed to his wife and family, happens upon a picture of an old friend in the literary-events column of the Sunday paper and is transfixed. His polite letter to poet Sian Richards transforms both of their lives. The normal drudgery of farm life and raising a family and the terror of mounting bills are totally forgotten by her when the couple correspond and, finally, meet at an elegant inn transformed from the summer camp where they met as children. Shreve's side-by-side story of the duo's escalating passion is suspenseful but allows only the main characters any depth or dimension. Those wounded by the lovers' infidelity remain on the sidelines even when one spouse's attempted suicide alters the whole scenario. Introspective but steamy fiction from a popular novelist.
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

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.27(w) x 9.27(h) x 1.03(d)

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

New Hampshire; Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
B.A., Tufts University

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Where or When 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have a hard time with reviewers who balk at 14 year old true love. I met my soul mate at 14. Im 38 now, so believe me when I tell you it was love. I have lived the difference. With that being said, I felt for these characters from the beginning. The loveless marriages made out of convenience or some sense of responsibility, some preconcieved notion of what is right or wrong, what is acceptable versus forbidden behaviour. I gripped all of that in this book. The ending, however, left me heartbroken and unfulfilled. I sat in about 10 minutes of stunned silence when I finished. I give it 4 stars instead of 3 because I enjoyed the writitng style. The back and forth between 14 year old innocent love and 45 year old very complicated love. Because of the ending, I am cautious of reading this author again. If you are looking for an HEA, this is not your book. If you like the pain of unrequited love, by all means, enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having read a number of Anita Shreve's novels, I really enjoyed this one the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*** Review contains NO spoilers *** I'd read a couple other books by this author and was not very impressed with the stories, though I did enjoy her writing style. I picked this book randomly at the library and didn't have very high hopes for it - then I was sucked into the plot because the situations presented are quite relatable. While I can't say I "liked" the ending, I thought it was a realistic view of how it could have happened if this were a true story. You know how it'll turn out, but hope for a last minute happily ever after.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TheStephanieLoves More than 1 year ago
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!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
donnareads911 More than 1 year ago
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).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.