"A gloriously strange book, both whimsical and brooding."—Jeremy Jackson, People
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has decided to replace Salt Cove's signature wooden bridge with a concrete monstrosity. The authorities are unreasoning and unyielding. The town decides on secession. Jessica Stoddard is a quirky seventy-two-year-old who is determined to keep a record of the event for posterity. She has a passion for the truth, but her account is not entirely reliable, because she also has a passion for the rebellion's ringleader who is...well, a much younger man. Toby Auberon is a lawyer and a drop-out. He has returned after years in Rio to perfect his mysterious invention in the solitude of the lighthouse. He is drawn, unwillingly, into the dispute when the bureaucracy switches tactics from bullying to armed occupation. Powerful, poignant, deeply funny, and enriched by the villagers' diverse voices, this is a contemporary farce about a town that dares to rebel against its own government, and to fight back when attacked.
Weller (TheGarden of the Peacocks, etc.) spins a simple premise into gold in this delightfully written, darkly comic novel. Salt Cove, an old fishing port an hour north of Boston, has everything a classic New England beach village should: a picturesque cove with bobbing sailboats, austere granite outcroppings, stone beaches and traditional architecture, including a dilapidated but still lovely 19th-century wooden pedestrian bridge. When the Massachusetts Department of Public Works decides the bridge must be replaced by a safer and far uglier "concrete structure," the Salines vow to fight. After a period of failed negotiation and escalating conflicts, the villagers decide their only option is to secede from the United States. Weller lets the tale unfold through 31 individual characters, each of whom narrate one or more first-person chapters. The chief historian and chronicler is Jessica Stoddard, an older longtime resident whose notes and comments provide the novel's sturdy backbone. The hero and leader of the rebellion is Toby Auberon, a reclusive ex-lawyer who lives in the local lighthouse and is obsessed with constructing "the greatest pinball machine ever created." The conflict escalates after Salt Cove secedes, and the villagers scramble to arm themselves and figure out why the state is so determined to tear down their bridge. The novel's time is fluid, slipping easily between past, present and future, and Weller adds a touch of magic realism as he allows several characters to speak from beyond the grave. While this all might sound confusing, it isn't. Weller is in complete control of his material, a master conductor creating a symphony out of what would have been, in lesser hands, a simple melody.