An elderly widow discovers a new sense of purpose when a series of wayward young people come to stay in her Vermont home in this “truly engrossing novel” (Library Journal).
Sarah Lucas imagined the rest of her days would be spent living peacefully in her rural Vermont home in the steadfast company of her husband. But now, with Charles’s sudden passing, seventy-five-year-old Sarah is left inconsolably alone.
As grief settles in, Sarah’s mind lingers on her past: her imperfect but devoted fifty-year marriage to Charles; the years they spent raising their three very different children; and her childhood during the Great Depression, when her parents opened their home to countless relatives and neighbors. So, when a variety of lost souls come seeking shelter in Sarah’s own big, empty home, her past comes full circle. As this unruly flock forms a family of sorts, they—with Sarah—nurture and protect one another, all the while discovering their unsuspected strengths and courage.
In the tradition of Jane Smiley and Sue Miller, Kate Maloy has crafted a wise and gratifying novel about a woman who gracefully accepts a surprising new role just when she thought her best years were behind her.
Maloy explored northern landscapes and Quaker faith in her memoir A Stone Bridge North; she returns to both in her moving debut novel. When 75-year-old Sarah Lucas's husband, Charles, succumbs to an injury at the peak of a particularly brutal Vermont winter, her worst later-life fears of physical mishap are realized. In grief, Sarah's memories take her back to the Great Depression, when her parents generously opened their home to countless friends and relatives, and to her own regretted missteps as a parent. The chance to recreate the one experience and rectify the other arrives uninvited when a variety of lost souls Sarah's own teenage granddaughter; an Israeli pacifist; a devastated young mother and child seek shelter and solace in Sarah's too-empty home. The motley assortment of characters, many of whom have been touched by violence, deliver passionate apostrophes on peace and justice, and together Sarah and her boarders discover unseen beauty in the landscape, uncover hidden talents and develop a nurturing, healing community. Maloy's wordplay and startling nature imagery enchant, but readers will have to decide if the spectacular climax, an expression of its characters' principles in action, is out of place with the novel's quiet thoughtfulness.