Robb Forman Dew was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For the past thirty years she has lived in Williamstown, MA, where she lives with her husband, who is professor of history at Williams College.
The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Dew is the author of the novels Dale Loves Sophie to Death, for which she received the National Book Award; The Time of Her Life; Fortunate Lives; The Evidence Against Her; and, most recently, The Truth of the Matter; as well as a memoir, The Family Heart.
The cover of Dew's latest novel is intriguing: the back of a woman in a Victorian lace dress, holding a Granny Smith apple behind her, one finger outstretched. The title entices further. Unfortunately, this somnolent, discursive tale of family life in small-town Ohio lacks vitality. Born on the same day in 1888, Robert Butler, Warren Scofield, and his cousin Lily share a deep bond, thinking of themselves as "one third of a triumvirate." When Lily marries Robert, everyone in Washburn knows Warren's heart is broken. Then he falls in love with schoolgirl Agnes Claytor, and Lily must learn to share. Lily's pique is momentary, the plot drags, and there's no true climax. This novel by the author of Dale Loves Sophie to Death may appeal to readers who appreciate its gentle storytelling or its focus on Ohio. Otherwise, it is recommended for comprehensive collections only. Christine Perkins, Jackson Cty. Lib. Svcs., Medford, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Appearing after a decade-long hiatus, Dew's latest novel proves well worth the wait. In her vibrant new work, Dew (Dale Loves Sophie to Death) once again demonstrates her mastery of the nuances of family life; her slow, painstaking accretion of detail, like the cross-hatching on a Durer etching, produces a rich and resonant landscape fully representative of its time and place. The setting here is Washburn, Ohio, a small town made prosperous by the Scofield engine manufacturer. Lily Scofield, her cousin Warren, and Robert Butler, son of the pastor of the Methodist church, are born on the same day in 1888, and their lives are intimately intertwined. Headstrong, clever Lily is their leader, first in their childhood and later as they mature. When she marries Robert, townspeople gossip that Warren is heartbroken, but the truth lies elsewhere; Warren carries a secret burden that he cannot acknowledge. His marriage to the much younger Agnes Claytor, eldest child in a dysfunctional family, disrupts the threesome's dynamic. World War I ends; the flu epidemic claims several victims. Another generation of children is born and become inseparable. And an accidental death occurs. Under the surface of these events Dew records minute changes in the emotional atmosphere, epiphanic moments that interrupt quotidian routines and small events, such as an argument over a riding habit, that signal domestic crises with lasting repercussions. A marvel of lyrical understatement, the narrative flows like a river smooth, with surprising depths, some turbulence and the inexorability of time's passing. Does character conspire with fate, or against it? Does love solve problems, or cause them? Both ambiguous and satisfying, the ending is laden with portent, suggesting another novel to come. Meanwhile, the subtlety and complexity of Dew's absorbing story is a signal achievement. (Sept. 19) Forecast: An arresting cover is a plus for this novel, and critical attention will surely be forthcoming for Dew, the granddaughter of poet John Crowe Ransom. Handselling should alert discerning readers. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.