There are moments in every life when something terrible happens to someone you love in a place where you are not, and you don’t know what has happened until afterward, and if you had known, you’d have altered the course of things by placing yourself here not there, a restraining wall, a force of nature: Stop. – from The End of the Point
It is 1942, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. The Porters arrive at their summer home on Ashuant Point with their three daughters – Helen and Dossie who are teenagers, and Janie who is only eight years old. With them are “the help,” including a Scottish nanny named Bea whose task it is to watch over Janie. Ashaunt has been their place, but this summer things are different. Soldiers have taken over the Wilson home, erected barracks, paved the road. And Charlie, the Porter’s son, is far away, training to go to war overseas. As the summer progresses, Bea falls in love and Helen and Dossie test out their new-found maturity, while something happens to Janie that forces the family to leave Ashaunt earlier than expected. The years spiral outward – Helen goes to school in Switzerland, marries and starts a family; Dossie struggles with mental illness; Janie grieves that Bea has moved back to Scotland. There are new generations, and one child in particular – Charlie, Helen’s son who is named after her brother – again looks to Ashaunt to find solace and meaning.
The End of The Point is a sweeping, multi-generational family saga which spans more than fifty years. The book is a quiet novel. Elizabeth Graver takes her time to slowly develop the characters, to examine their lives and their tragedies. The backdrop of history is always right there: WWII, Vietnam, the drug-addled years of the sixties and seventies, and real estate development along the shores of Massachusetts.
The novel is broken into four parts and told in multiple points of view, following a family through time. My favorite section was the first where the immediate members of the family are introduced and the girls are coming of age. Bea also takes a central role in the novel – a woman who has lived her life for others and becomes a part of the extended family.
It is the characters who drive the narrative in this novel about growing up, family legacy, parenting, and the power of place. Charlie, the brother, is someone who the reader only meets through the eyes of the other characters, and yet his presence reverberates throughout the novel. Janie, who is a strong presence in the first section, yields the novel to Helen, her older sister, as time passes. Charlie, Helen’s son, struggles with his identity, befriends questionable people, and clings to the one place he has always felt he belonged. And Bea, the motherly woman who adopts the Porters as her own, weaves her own tale through the book.
This is a novel which is subtle in plot, but beautifully rendered in description and character development. Readers who enjoy quiet novels with a strong sense of place will enjoy The End of The Point.
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About the Author:
Elizabeth Graver is the author of The End of the Point, a novel set in a summer community on Buzzard’s Bay from 1942 to 1999. She has also written three other novels: Awake, The Honey Thief, andUnravelling.
Her short story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories (1991, 2001); Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards (1994, 1996, 2001), The Pushcart Prize Anthology (2001), and Best American Essays (1998). Graver’s story “The Mourning Door” was award the Cohen Prize from Ploughshares magazine. The mother of two daughters, Elizabeth Graver teaches English and Creative Writing at Boston College.
FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins who provided this book for review.