Anita Diamant's international bestseller The Red Tent brilliantly re-created the ancient world of womanhood, exploring the passions, traditions, and turmoil of a family of mothers and daughters from the Book of Genesis. In Good Harbor, she brings her remarkable storytelling skills and emotional insight to the lives of modern women, considering the precarious balance of marriage and career, motherhood and friendship.
The seaside town of Gloucester, on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a place where the smell of the ocean lingers in the air. Fifty-nine-year-old Kathleen Levine, a longtime resident, is graceful, maternal, and steady, a devoted children's librarian, a convert to Judaism, the mother of two grown sons. But when she is diagnosed with breast cancer -- which killed her sister fifteen years earlier -- her life is thrown into turmoil. Frightened, lonesome for a woman to talk to, burdened by secrets, she meets Joyce Tabachnik and a once-in-a-lifetime friendship is born. Forty-two-year-old Joyce, restless and funny, a freelance writer with literary aspirations, has just bought a small house in Gloucester, where she hopes to write as well as vacation with her family. Like Kathleen, Joyce is at a fragile place in her life: with her twelve-year-old daughter becoming increasingly testy and distant, she's also feeling a distinct lack of connection to her husband.
A mutual appreciation of books, humor, and the beauty of the natural world brings the two women together for long walks along Good Harbor beach. Slowly, they begin to share their personal histories and to realize how much they can learn from each other. Ultimately they wrestle with some startling secrets, and help each other to confront scars left by old emotional wounds.
With her own trademark wisdom and humor, Diamant considers the nature, strength, and necessity of adult female friendship. Good Harbor is a rich and moving book about the tragedy of loss, the insidious nature of family secrets, and, ultimately, the redemptive power of friendship.
There's less to chew on in Diamant's follow-up to her wildly successful first novel, The Red Tent, which offered a reinterpretation of the biblical world of women. She does make a smooth entry into the arena of contemporary women's fiction with this graceful story of a new friendship between Kathleen, a 59-year-old woman who has recently discovered that she has breast cancer, and 42-year-old Joyce, who is facing a midlife crisis with her work and family. Faith and religion are woven matter-of-factly into the narrative: Kathleen, born Catholic, converted to Judaism when she married her husband, and Joyce, a nonobservant Jew, finds that her new summer house comes complete with a shrine to the Virgin. The two women meet by chance at a temple service in their New England coastal town of Gloucester and begin meeting for walks and talks at picturesque Good Harbor beach. As Kathleen undergoes radiation treatment for her cancer, she is plagued by memories of her sister (who died from the disease) and the accident 25 years earlier that killed one of her three sons. Joyce spends her time remodeling and putting off writing she has authored a romance novel under a pseudonym while worrying about her increasingly distant husband and quarrelsome 12-year-old daughter. The male characters are disappointingly one-dimensional (Kathleen's husband and two adult sons are rather boringly devoted, and Joyce's husband gets trotted out for a few obligatory "busy-at-work" conversations), but the women reveal hidden depths as they grow closer. Despite a fairly ordinary plot line and too-convenient resolution, Diamant delivers a satisfying portrayal of a delicate and sustaining friendship formed later in life.