Eden Close by Anita Shreve
Eden Close. Finished 2-27-13, rating 4/5, 265 pages, pub. 1989
I consider myself a fan of Anita Shreve even though I’d only read three of her sixteen novels. So, when I saw that Diane had this on her favorites from 2002 list (reposted with 2012 favorites) and that I had it on my shelves I added it to my small 2013 reading pile. This is Shreve’s first novel.
Andrew, after many years, returns to his hometown to attend his mother’s funeral. Planning to remain only a few days, he is drawn into the tragic legacy of his childhood friend and beautiful girl next door, Eden Close. An adopted child, Eden had learned to avoid the mother who did not want her and to please the father who did. Then one hot night, Andrew was awakened by gunshots and piercing screams from the next farm: Mr. Close had been killed and Eden blinded.
Now, seventeen years later, Andrew begins to uncover the grisly story – to unravel the layers of thwarted love between the husband, wife, and tormented girl.
This book had all of the things I love about reading Shreve. The characters are complex and yet recognizable, the language haunting and beautiful, and the story told with a lingering sadness. Andy is not only dealing with the death of his mother, but of returning home for the first time in almost 20 years. As he packs up the house, memories of Eden and that fact that she is only across the driveway but may as well be a million miles away, keep him close and resisting a return to his real life with a job and a son. But ultimately Eden has always drawn him to her and when he can no longer resist he sees her for the first time since the shooting, the shot that took her sight. He is also navigating old friendships that are so far away from the man he is now.
I savored every word because her writing is so beautiful. There is something so familiar about her characters, insights that make you say, ‘yes! exactly!’ , sometimes out loud. In this way her writing resembles Elizabeth Berg. As much as I liked this one I did think that the story dragged in a few places, especially for as short a novel as it is. But the feeling of those two lonely houses alone together in a sea of farmland and the two old friends and would be lovers will be with me a while.
Let me leave you with a few passages about childhood.
And then, because he was seventeen, he had another realization-one that had possibly been lurking below the surface all along but now became, like many of the insights he was having that summer, a conscious thought: Even though you could love someone as much as he had loved his mother and she him, her only child, you could leave her if you had to. You could even look forward to leaving her.
But TJ and Andy accepted this embarrassment and his parents’ volatility as a give, much in the same way they unconsciously acknowledged that Andy’s mother was too fat and TJ’s mother was a social climber-these facts intruding upon their childhood, sometimes even causing them a moment’s pain or awkwardness, but ultimately easily dismissed as not being pivotal to their lives. The weather was pivotal. And the condition of the ice or the fishing. Or a stolen baseball glove or the offer of a driving lesson or a chance at the playoffs. Their parents, however seemed more like obstacles to be negotiated than central figures in the daily drama.