by Michelle Huneven
It seemed like such a good idea: move up to her parents’ Sierras mountain cabin to finish writing her dissertation far away from the distractions of the city.
Cress Hartley soon learns that the distractions of the Meadows are far more addictive than the urgency of finishing her dissertation.
Simply walking by her typewriter makes her sleepy. Her topic — how art acquires value in the marketplace — seems vague and unsubstantial. Soon, she is taking long walks in the woods and picking up cash running errands down the mountain for neighbors and the contractor her parents hired to build a new cabin behind their original one.
By the time Cress meets and becomes ever more deeply involved with Quinn Morrow, a talented woodworker and carpenter, she’s no longer distracted from her dissertation, she’s drifting off-course from her life, her potential and her future.
Quinn’s green eyes, resonant voice and gratitude for being listened to as he tells of his life and frustrations fill Cress with love and a sense of being appreciated. The ropes that bind him elsewhere — the beautiful prom queen wife he married young, his two children, the family property on the mountain, his standing with his mother and brother — are issues the 28-year-old Cress believes can be overcome.
This is a classic story of an obsessive love for a married man. As Cress’s friends mature into marriage, acquire skills and progress into jobs of increasing significance, she finds herself lost in the woods with a man who can’t quite say yes, while she can’t quite say no.
Author Michelle Nuneven writes beautifully of the high Sierras as the seasons change. She has a precise eye for a small community with quirky characters she never turns buffoonish. She is also tone perfect when people Cress has socialized with start taking positions on marriage, divorce, adultery and who to blame for the triangle created by Quinn, his wife Sylvia and Cress.
The Author: Michelle Huneven (1953 – )
After attending a variety of colleges, Michelle Huneven landed at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop where she earned her master’s of fine arts degree.
Her first three books were published to critical praise. Round Rock (1997) and Jamesland (2003) were New York Times notable books and finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Blame (2009), her third book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Off-Course was published in 2014.
She is also a recipient of the GE Younger Writers Award and the 2002 Whiting Award for Fiction.
Before she became a full-time novelist, she reviewed restaurants and wrote about food for the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Weekly and other publications, including The New York Times, O, Gourmet and Food and Wine. She received a James Beard award for “feature writing with recipes,” as well as other food writing awards.
She, with Bernadette Murphy, is co-author of The Tao Gals’ Guide to Real Estate: Six Modern Women Discover the Ancient Art of Finding, Owning and Making a Home. The book was an out growth of a women’s group organized by the pair in 2000.
Huneven and her husband Jim Piper live in Altadena, nearly a mile from where Huneven was born.