W.W. Norton, 2010
Rose Tremain is a thoughtful and superb writer who brings us novels about people whose lives are tainted by a little darkness or some heinous act that occurred long ago.
I picked up her novel "The Colour" on a trip to Scotland and fell in love with her writing. In her new novel, "Trespass," Tremain brings us two sets of dysfunctional middle-aged siblings.
Trespassing is a theme throughout the novel. Physical trespass threatens the sale of the family estate, a lover trespasses on the relationship between a brother and a sister and finally, the trespass on one's soul.
Aramon and Audrun are brother and sister living in the Cevennes region of southern France, Aramon has inherited a large family estate, which has gone to rack and ruin through his alcoholic neglect. Audrun inherited the woods nearby, where she lives in a small unattractive bungalow she built.
There are dark secrets that cloud their relationship, which Tremain painfully uncovers, like picking a scab from a wound.
Anthony Verey is a snobby English antiques dealer with a once busy shop on Pimlico Road who sees his life come to a sluggish halt in London and wishes for something else.
He decides to visit his sister Veronica, who lives with her lesbian lover Kitty, not far from the Ludel estate. Anthony falls in love with the rough region of Cevennes and, realizing he cannot live at Veronica's forever, decides to find a house to buy. Aramon Ludel has put up the family estate for sale, anxious to cash in on wealthy foreigners willing to pay top dollar for crumbling estates.
Anthony loves the estate and wants to buy it, provided the bungalow is removed. Audrun, distraught her brother would even consider selling, becomes increasingly agitated.
The tension increases between these four characters as jealousies rage and siblings are at odds over greed and dark paths of trespass that occurred in childhood.
Then Anthony disappears while on a trek to look at another house in the hills, and no one can find him. The reader's mind harkens back to the beginning of the novel, when a child wanders off from a school picnic and a scream resounds through the woods. A murder has occurred and Aramon is arrested for the crime, leaving Audrun to inherit the woods and the family estate.
Tremain is able to bring a novel to life through her visual imagery and character development. She's written 12 novels, including "The Road Home," which won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2008, as well as a selection of short stories.
When Liz Murray spoke at a conference in October, the more than 100 people in the room fell silent as Murray shared her inspirational story of being a child of drug addicted parents in the Bronx.
"Breaking Night," what homeless kids call staying up all night and watching dawn break, is Murray's memoir.
She was born in 1980 in the Bronx to drug addicted, HIV-positive parents who raised her and her sister, Lisa, as best they could, despite their addictions and mental illness.
When Murray speaks, you can hear in her voice how much she loved her parents and how she has forgiven them.
Her childhood was spent watching her parents live from welfare check to welfare check so they could score drugs and shoot them up in their kitchen while Murray watched TV and her sister studied in her room.
Murray skipped school a lot and often didn't realize the deep dysfuntion of her life.
When someone suggests she needs a bath, Murray writes: "Given that it wasn't uncommon for me to go a month or two without washing or brushing my teeth, this struck me as strange."
When Murray was 15 her mother died of AIDs. Her father by then was living in a homeless shelter, leaving Murray homeless as well. She was still skipping school and managed to avoid child welfare services because she did not want to live in a foster home.
Friends hid her in their bathrooms or bedrooms after their parents left for work, letting her shower and feeding her.
But while living this tumultuous life she decided to finish high school, and not just get her GED as some counselors suggested.
She found an alternative high school in the Bronx and while still homeless - sleeping in subways or the streets - she finished four years of high school in just two years.
At the suggestion of her gui-dance counselor, Murray applied for a Harvard scholarship from the New York Times.
In her interview as a finalist for the scholarship, she's asked to describe an obstacle she's had to overcome. She held nothing back. When she finished, one man leaned forward and quietly asked, "Liz...is there anything else you'd like to tell us?"
She was accepted to Harvard, and as Robert Redford wrote in a review of her book, "Liz Murray shows us that the human spirit has infinite ability to grow and can never be limited by circumstance. Breaking Night is a beautifully written, heartfelt memoir that will change the way you look at your community, the obstacles in your own life and the American Dream."
ANNIE PHILBRICK IS CO-OWNER OF BANK SQUARE BOOKS, 53 WEST MAIN ST., MYSTIC.