Frankie Rowley has been working in Africa most of her adult life when she returns to Pomeroy, New England, now her parents retirement home, but for years their summer home. Her return to the small town coincides with the start of a spate of arson attacks. Houses are burnt down with the divide between the all-year-round residents and the summer residents becoming wider but with both sides demanding action. Bud the newspaper reporter, relocated from reporting political news, has a big story to tell but is in danger of upsetting the different factions. Meanwhile American politics are focussed on Monica Lewinsky.
This is a book dense with the details as Frankie examines her life in Africa, the transience that she has led her life and whether now is the time to change her way of life. Meanwhile she is reconnecting with her mother, Sylvia, and concerned about her father, Alfie, who is rapidly slipping into dementia. This is the second book I’ve read this year that describes dementia to my mind Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey describes this condition more accurately.
This book was a bit of a non-event, the writing is good, but almost diffident around the key questions it raises, not least how Frankie resolves her inner-conflict about where she belongs in the world or even who and why the fires were set. Although not a particularly long book, this took me an age to finish, not least to the circular nature of the writing where the same themes and questions were revisited with little added to make this device satisfactory.
I have really enjoyed some of Sue Miller’s previous novels but this one failed to give much in the way of pleasure or conclusion. The tension built between the full-time residents and the vacationers were not followed through or even explored in any meaningful way, whilst Sylvia’s difficult relationship with her eldest daughter, Frankie, not given the background required for the reader to fully understand. These omissions appear more conspicuous when compared to the intricate details given of houses, trips to various parts of town and the unaccountable fear that Frankie had in reporting a suspicious car on the night of the first fire. However the small-town mentality of the police felt if not realistic, then only a slight exaggeration of how I can imagine they would act towards the crime, as their moment in the spotlight shines brightly on a stage outside the confines of their small town.
I received a copy of this book from Amazon Vine in return for this honest review.