Saturday, September 1, 2012

Another Anita Shreve?

I know, I know...I recently gave a rather negative review to Where or When by Ms. Shreve, but as I stated in that post, I have read other books by her that I have enjoyed very much.  My daughter gave me Body Surfing to read several months ago, and so when I came across it on one of my several to-be-read shelves, I decided that it was time to read it so that I could return it to her!  Good decision on several, it's always a good thing to return books to their owners; two, I needed something to read that very night; three, I really enjoyed the book!

Body Surfing is the story of Sydney, a twenty-nine year old once divorced, once widowed, rather lost soul.  That summer Sydney took on a position as a tutor for the daughter of a family who summers on the New Hampshire coast.  The Edwards family had two grown sons, and a eighteen year old daughter, Julie.  As Sydney settled into her position, it became clear that she was expected to do a bit more than tutor, as she began to take on some of the household duties.  She became more and more enmeshed in the family when the two sons came for a weekend.  Ben was quite successful in the real estate field, and Jeff was a professor at MIT, who was involved with another woman.  Their first night there, the brothers took Sydney out to body surf, which is something that she has always enjoyed.  As the weekend progressed both of the brothers appeared to be interested in Sydney.  And as the summer passed, Sydney and Jeff became involved, then engaged.  Ben seemed to become more distant from all of the family, but especially Sydney and Jeff.

Meanwhile, Sydney was doing her best with Julie, who appeared to be rather slow at first, but Sydney realized that Julie showed some talent for composition and so Sydney began to encourage Julie to draw and paint, which Julie ended up having a gift for.  Sydney became close to Mr. Edwards over the summer, but never felt accepted by his wife, who appeared to be cold and non-caring. Sydney is half Jewish and Mrs. Edwards is anti-Semitic.

"The woman might well look windblown, Sydney thought.  One child would marry a Jew.  A second was a lesbian.  A third, by all accounts heterosexual, had absented himself from the family indefinitely.
All this she blamed on Sydney."

One evening, Julie wandered off after dinner without anyone realizing she was gone until later in the evening.  Sydney and Jeff went out searching for her to no avail.  Late in the evening, Julie was dropped off at the house and was very intoxicated and unable or unwilling to tell Sydney where she had gone.  Since she had no friends there, Sydney, Jeff and Ben were quite concerned.  Concerns really escalated when Julie then disappeared again, eventually showing up living in Montreal with a twenty-five year old woman who Julie had met on the beach that first night she had been missing.  Julie and Jeff went to Montreal, planning to bring Julie back home, but that didn't work out as the family had planned.  

I don't think that I should go on with the story, so I don't ruin it for anyone.  It is a very well-written account of a family falling-apart, and a woman trying to figure out old rivalries and secrets.  The ending is explosive as Sydney learned the truth about the family, and about herself.  Good read.

No comments: