By Ann Hood
Vivien and Claire have one thing in common: they each fell in love with a married man and face a life with a broken heart.
Vivien lost the love of her life in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but never stopped believing that he had somehow survived.
Claire seemed to have the perfect suburban life, with a husband who was a good provider and a young daughter. Somewhere at the periphery, she realizes she has sacrificed her potential for a false security and the scarce approval of a prickly husband.
She meets Miles Sullivan at a Kennedy for President campaign office. Over flyer-folding and envelope-stuffing, Claire discovers a man who listens to what she thinks and expects her to have desires, goals and plans of her own. An affair begins. When Peter discovers that she’s been unfaithful, she has to face the question of what can she live with . . . and without.
Vivien, by accident, becomes an obituary writer. She doesn’t focus on dates and places; she focuses on what people remember most about the one who has passed on. She offers hot tea, soup, cookies, and buttered toast to the bereaved, giving them space to remember and talk about their loved one. For 13 years, she hopes that her beloved David is actually alive somewhere. When she learns what really happened to David on April 18, 1906, she at last moves on with life.
Vivien and Claire each have moments of truth in a hospital room in Rhode Island. With life and death in balance around them, they find the courage to move forward into the lives they were meant to live.
Ann Hood skillfully alternates these two stories until they dramatically come together. She’s equally adept at painting Napa, CA, after World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, and a Washington, D.C., suburb in the transition from the Eisenhower administration to John F. Kennedy’s.
Vivien and Claire lead quiet lives, but their desperation to escape the deadening path they are on gives this book suspense and drive. There aren’t easy or trite answers for either woman.
Hood has written a book with an elegant, easy to read style covering a story of depth and nuance.
About the Author: Ann Hood (1956 – )
Ann Hood was guided in this book — and others she has written — by the grief that she has experienced in her own life.
In 2009, her memoir, COMFORT: A JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF (2009), tells of losing her five-year-old daughter Grace to a virulent strep infection in 2002.
Her book, THE KNITTING CIRCLE (2008), features a woman whose five-year-old daughter dies of meningitis and who finds comfort in a knitting group.
Her first novel, SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE (1987), was written about a year after her older brother, Skip, died in a freak accident.
Hood wanted to be a writer for as along as she can remember. She majored in English at the University of Rhode Island. From 1978 to 1986, wanting to see the world, she became a TWA flight attendant. She wrote SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE on international flights and the subway to JFK while earning a master’s degree in American literature at New York University.
She has since written 14 novels, four memoirs, short stories, a 10-book series for middle school readers and one young adult novel.
Her books include THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST (2016), DO NOT GO GENTLE: MY SEARCH FOR MIRACLES IN A CYNICAL TIME (2014), KITCHEN YARNS: NOTES ON LIFE, LOVE, AND FOOD (2018), KNITTING YARNS: WRITERS ON KNITTING (2013), THE RED THREAD (2010), RUBY (2014) and AN ITALIAN WIFE (2014).
Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, O, Bon Appetit, Tin House, The Atlantic Monthly, and Real Simple. In addition, she’s won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing awards and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award.
She is a faculty member in the master of fine arts creative writing program at The New School in New York City.
She currently lives in Providence, RI, with her husband writer Michael Ruhlman and two children Anabelle and Sam.