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‘Intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful’ WASHINGTON POST
Filmmaking student Buddy Whyte never visited his mother’s hometown while she was alive.
But in the wake of her tragic death, he can no longer resist the lure of Naples, Virginia. He packs up his car and drives south from New York City with his camera. He means to make a short film about the town – and perhaps learn why Beth Whyte left it, and why she never went back.
Many people in the close-knit community are devastated to learn of the death of Buddy’s mother –not least two brothers, Jack and Gil, who knew her best. Although they live and work side by side, a dark secret divides them, and they have not spoken to one another in years.
Through his camera lens, Buddy captures an unexpected story, including glimpses of his mother that challenge everything he thought he knew. But in a small town where even disparate voices agree that the past is best kept hidden from outsiders, will he actually learn the truth?
Near Canaan is an intricate and multi-layered novel of secrets and memory which explores the far-reaching, inescapable effects of the past.
When N.Y.C. filmmaking student Buddy Gates turns up in Naples, Va., ostensibly to make a short documentary as a class project, he has actually come to his mother's home town searching for an explanation of her death in faraway Connecticut. He encounters two middle-aged brothers who once loved her: Gil, a sensitive stutterer who says almost nothing yet sees nearly everything, and Jack, who exhibits a manly taciturnity. Gradually Buddy's presence serves to reveal why Gil and Jack have not spoken in years: they share a dark secret about the long-ago disappearance of Beth Gates's first child. This first novel disappoints in several regards: the characters are, for the most part, literary warhorses; the prose is often overripe (``Goodbye was always in her, from the first,'' says Jack of Beth); and Schwartz's southern gothic landscape seems small-town generic. Still, the author wins us over with her undeniable gift for old-fashioned storytelling. If readers can accept her limitations as a stylist, they'll be seduced by the tension accumulating as the characters' intimately intertwined histories and mysteries are gradually unveiled.