Let me preface this review by saying that I'm a huge Anne Rivers Siddons fan. A few years ago, I set about tracking down first editions of all of her novels, and I cherish them.
I think her early work (Outer Banks, Peachtree Road, Colony, Hill Towns) is her best...and I'm not afraid to say so. Anytime I see someone reading one of her recent books, I can't help but say, "If you like her writing, please be sure to go back and read her first few novels."
Her storytelling talent is undenied, and she has paved the way for many of today's female Southern novelists. She has a certain knack for creating consuming family dramas, weaving the tapestry of generations of secrets and quirky personalities, told through the backdrop of the particular uniqueness of the setting and delectable combinations of words (many a paragraph have made it into my quote book over the years).
I have had mixed feelings delving into her latest releases over the past decade or so, and I went into Off Season the same way. However, I was quickly sucked in to the rhythm and lyricism of Siddons' prose and had higher hopes.
When 60-something Lilly loses her spouse, Cam, she heads to familiar territory to grieve...her family's Maine summer retreat, Edgewater. The house has been the scene for many memories through Lilly's years, both tragic and redemptive.
The ocean there has always helped her breathe, and she looks to its restorative power to help her through the process. Her arrival there at once takes her back in her head to a pivotal summer, her 11th, and what transpired in her life both then and afterwards.
Having relived those years in her mind, she must then live out the summer of her retreat from her Washington, D.C., life following her widowhood. While there, she uncovers surprises and revelations about her marriage, along with a voice other than her own whispering encouragement and providing company to her vast solitude.
(Note: I don't like books about ghosts. But, this seemed innocuous enough early on.)
I absolutely will not spoil the ending for you except to say that I really enjoyed this book up until the last 30 or so pages. I'm really interested in reading what others have to say about this novel, especially longtime ARS fans.
Closing the cover still convinced me that the books of hers I loved the most are still the ones I love the most. I may just have to pick up one and re-read it to remind me why.