From her hospital bed, 99-year-old Isobel Howard recalls her unexpected friendship with Cathryn, a childless, Chicago-born heiress who shunned her family, attended art school and married an Irishman with no pedigree. During the summer of 1936, the women find themselves alone in Cypress, MN, a mining town on the edge of a glacier-fed lake. Isobel is the wife of a tailor, mother of three young children and a milliner by training. Her husband, Victor has taken their two boys away to an island he has purchased - an extravagance that has become a sore point in their marriage.
Left behind with her quiet daughter, Louisa, Isobel revives her interest in hatmaking. During their shared days, Cathryn introduces Isobel to literature, art and a more cosmopolitan view of life, ultimately making Isobel an accomplice to the affair she is having with a local forest ranger. But there is a darker side to this idyll, and as the elderly Isobel reflects on the ensuing events, it is clear that this summer has exacted a heavy price. Sticklers for logic may question some turns of the story, and Stonich's prose has an eye for exquisite detail, opening up into atmospherically rendered, carefully observed scenes.
Stonich unfurls a complex, many-layered and suspenseful story; and, like Susan Minot and Anita Shreve, she handles flashbacks and contemporary details with equal precision.
©2005 Sarah Stonich
Sarah Stonich provides a non-linear story of a woman's life. She weaves events forward and backward making for an interesting chronicle of Isobel Howard's life. Writing about love, loss, and commitment to friendship may not be considered exciting to some people but I loved this book and related to the main character through several events. The narrative kept my interest and there was even suspense near the end of the novel (no spoiler alerts will be given here!). Elizabeth Klett's skillful reading enhanced my experience of listening to Ms. Stonich's well-written book.
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