Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver is a sweeping, multi-generational tale that chronicles the Porter family (and their staff) during their summers at Ashaunt Point on Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. The point is a magical and mythical place for this family of privilege whose wealth does not insulate them from the big troubles faced by many families - death, mental illness and infirmity or the more pedestrian troubles of sibling rivalry, parental indifference and lack of direction. The constant throughout the generations is Ashaunt Point - it has a pull, both positive and negative, on the Porter family.

The book opens with the story being told by Bea, nanny to the young Porter children, who left Scotland to come to the US shortly after her mother's death.  It is 1942 and Bea is with the Porter family for the summer at Ashaunt Point. They share their summer oasis that year with the army stationed there for the war. There is a spareness to Bea - she lives carefully and seems afraid of happiness. Whether this comes from the devastation of losing of her mother and then leaving a country she felt no longer held anything for her or from a lifetime of limited expectations is hard to tell.  She is extraordinarily devoted to the Porter's youngest child, Janie, to the point that she is willing to sacrifice her own fulfillment to continue to care for Jane. This quote sums up the way in which Bea lives without allowing herself to yearn for much:
She had long ago given up the idea of having her own child - not given up, even, just never let the desire take shape, until in its shapelessness, it evaporated, it slipped away
Following Bea, the oldest Porter daughter Helen takes over the narrative with a series of letters and diary entries from Europe and then Ashaunt where she has returned for summers as an adult with her own family. She brings the story through to the 1960's and we see the progress in the lives of the Porters. All three daughters are married with children and each returns to Ashaunt with their families to the point that the Porter's home begins to resemble a hotel. Helen (aka Hellion) is restless and has always tested those around her. She has an insatiable thirst for knowledge but this also contributes to her constant searching and seeming inability to settle. Even at Ashaunt with her own family, Helen finds solace in her childhood summer destination but is still plagued by a sense of dissatisfaction.

Finally, Helen's adult son, Charlie,  takes over the narrative and we see Ashaunt Point again during war - this time the Vietnam War. Ashaunt Point still has a tremendous hold on this family - even Charlie believes it may be the only place in which he has been truly happy. Charlie is troubled  - almost as if the minor transgressions of the Porter's in earlier generations have all accumulated in this one son. He struggles with high expectations but an inability to deliver against them. As the book concludes in the 1990's, the stories begun throughout the book are brought to conclusion, as in a crescendo.

My Thoughts
This quiet book is remarkably moving and beautifully written. Despite what I felt was a slow start, I soon became captivated by Bea's story. Her practical but almost emotionless movement through life was fascinating to me. As each section of the novel played out, I found myself inextricably connected to these characters. This is surprising because, on the surface, there is very little about them to which I can relate. The key, however, is that their lives of privilege do not insulate them from everyday concerns and the characters are drawn so detailed that I found myself recognizing their emotions and frailties as similar to my own. Definitely recommend.

You can read other reviews from those on the TLC Tour (some are even offering a giveway!).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher as part of the tour

13 comments:

  1. I have this book waiting on my TBR pile. You did a great job with this review, I'm going to have to move it up on the list.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a great author that can make unrelatable characters relatable! So glad you liked this one. Thanks for being on the tour!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I do think we like to know that the wealthy aren't exempt from most of the problems we have.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad to know you enjoyed this, Colleen. Years ago I read Elizabeth Graver's THE HONEY THIEF and really enjoyed it. Just last week I saw this book and downloaded it to my iPad.

    Terrific review.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have this one on my shelf so I am happy to hear it's so good! Sounds like a book that you can really get into.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love the sound of this, I adore books that move through the generations with a family. From your review, it sounds like you were emotionally invested in the characters, always a good sign of a well written saga. Adding to my summer reads wish list :)

    BookishTrish @ Between the Lines

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I passed on this tour and now I'm thinking I should have read it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. All the reviews I've seen so far mention how beautiful the writing is. I've just started it, and I'm already loving the writing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I read a review in maybe the NYT and your review makes it sound even more interesting. It's good to be warned of the slow start and that the characters are relatable despite their privilege. I really liked that excerpt too.

    On your post below, like you, I have many books I've started and put down that I should return to.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for linking this in to Books You Loved. I hadn't heard of this one before. Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nice review...I need to read this book. THANKS for your thoughts.


    I found you on the TLC tour list for the Dorthea Benton books. Perhaps we will meet at the Cocktail Party. :)

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

    ReplyDelete