Anita Shreve was a high school teacher and a freelance magazine journalist before writing fiction full time. She was the author of over fifteen novels including The Stars Are Fire as well as the international bestseller The Pilot's Wife, and The Weight of the Water, a finalist for the Orange Prize. Shreve taught writing at Amherst College and lived in Massachusetts.
In her notable fiction debut (her most recent nonfiction book is Women Together, Women Alone ) Shreve sensitively explores the coming-of-age and later redemption of her hero, events separated by nearly 20 years. A recently divorced New York advertising executive in his mid-30s, Andrew returns to the home of his youth in upstate New York to bury his widowed mother. In the dilapidated house next door live Eden Close and her mother Edith. The novel opens with Andrew dreaming of the night he was awakened by screams from the Closes' house, an incident well remembered: ``The man next door was murdered when I was seventeen. His daughter was raped.'' Blinded by the same gun that killed her father, Eden endures an hermetic existence, zealously guarded by her mother. She and Andrew had been best friends before puberty complicated their relationship, and now Andrew, looking to the past for clues to his future, reconnects with Eden. Readers will have guessed the secret of Eden and her mother long before the story's putative climax, when it is revealed to Andrew and others. Shreve's evocative prose and elegiac voice, and her faithful attention to her likable hero's emotions render him believable and give this romance a weight superior to most in the genre. Film rights to Disney/Hollywood Pictures. (Aug.)
For Andrew and Eden, it's a modern adaptation of paradise lost and then regained. As next-door neighbors, ``best buddies,'' and then awkward adolescents, Eden and Andy find solace in each other's company until a tragic event occurs as Andy prepares to leave their small home town and heads off to college. The awful accident drives them apart, but then inadvertently draws them together again some 15 years later. Their relationship is rekindled when Andy returns home to attend his mother's funeral. Rather than close the chapter, Andy cautiously explores the remains of his past while trying to solve the mystery that envelops the woman he has always loved. Flashbacks add to this sensitive exploration as Shreve's characters struggle to obtain the ever elusive happy ending.-- Heidi Schwartz, ``Business Interiors,'' Red Bank, N.J.