First published in paperback in 1996, this novel rocketed to fame when chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her very powerful Book Club which was a source of wonderful reads.This is a re-read for me and at 740 pages it is a big book. I rarely re-read but this is one of my all time favourite books and I just wanted to enjoy it again.
Set in Atkinson, Vermont in 1960 it has as its central character Marie Fermoyle, a divorcee with 3 children, an alcoholic ex husband and a town full of characters who you would struggle to describe as average let alone normal. Marie is a strong woman but times are tough and she in her vulnerability is open to the charms of a particularly conniving conman named Omar Duvall who in both the short and long term tips her life upside down.
This book is a sprawling saga which flows and segues effortlessly from one character`s story to the next, there is a richness, a unique depth to the way Morris`s characters are portrayed, they come alive in all their shabby glory on her pages and engage the reader in their various journey`s in a way that makes it very hard to put the book down and I often found myself thinking of them when I wasn`t reading, therefore it would be fair to say that Morris writing is powerful. There are many characters and it is too her credit that Morris keeps them interesting and enables the reader to keep track of each one`s comings and goings.Even the most ghastly of characters has a back story that enables the reader to understand their motivations, needs, wants and desires.
The story is never dull, it is certainly never boring and it ticks along at a really nice pace, well structured and with bridging that allows for transition from one setting to another, it is thoroughly captivating although parts of it a very stark and gritty, it is also a very wordy book but in the best possible way, never using one word when three will do works very well in this book.Morris understands human frailty and never demeans it, her compassion is vast and so is her ability to see the perversity in life`s struggles.
For all the pain and sadness contained in this book there is a wonderful black humour that runs through it.
It is not easy to get a copy of this book but Book Depository have it as does the Library System and there will be a number of copies sitting in second hand book stores waiting to find a new home.