A pitch-perfect, emotionally riveting novel about the fracturing of a marriage and a family: “A gripping debut” (People) from an award-winning young writer with superb storytelling instincts.
Life hasn’t always been perfect for Abe and Cassandra Green, but an afternoon on the San Francisco Bay might be as good as it gets. Abe is a rheumatologist, piloting his coveted new boat. Cassandra is a sculptor, finally gaining modest attention for her art. Their beautiful daughter Elizabeth is heading to Harvard in the fall. Somehow, they’ve made things work. But then, tensions overflow, and they plunge into a terrible fight. In a fit of fury, Abe throws himself off the boat.
“A bittersweet tale of breakup and forgiveness” (O, The Oprah Magazine), The Violet Hour follows a modern family through past and present. As Cassandra, Abe, and Elizabeth navigate the passage of time—the expectations of youth, the concessions of middle age, the headiness of desire, the bitterness of loss—they must come to terms with the fragility of their intimacy, the strange legacies they inherit from their parents, and the kind of people they want to be.
Exquisitely written, The Violet Hour is “a rewarding family saga reminiscent of Anne Tyler’s novels...Hill’s story unfurls from the kind of sensational marital spat that makes you feel better about your own imperfect union…wonderfully witty and assured” (The Washington Post Book World).
This debut novel begins strikingly: after an argument with his wife while they are sailing in the San Francisco Bay, Abe Green dives off the boat and swims away for eight years. The Violet Hour, the title a reference to the evening that draws a sailor homeward in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, chronicles just such a metaphoric journey for Abe, his unfaithful wife Cassandra, a sculptor, and their daughter, Elizabeth. After Abe's dramatic plunge, the story skips forward nearly a decade to the sudden death of Cassandra's father, an esteemed mortician in Bethesda, then flits back and forth across time to Abe and Cassandra's courtship, to Cassandra's infidelities, and to Elizabeth's young adulthood as a medical student and lover first to Kyle, then briefly to the enigmatic Toby. In flashbacks we witness both Elizabeth and earlier, Cassandra, being taken to see bodies lying in wait in the basement of the family funeral home in one particularly striking scene, Cassandra, whose father recognized her artistic talent, is asked while still a child to paint the face of a dead woman to prepare it for viewing. This is an affecting tale about decent but flawed people the volatile Cassandra, blazing with helplessness and grief; literal Abe, good at doctoring but bad at messes, and Elizabeth, desperate to find a way to help her parents remember their strengths as they each seek their own violet hours of self-knowledge and forgiveness.