Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End of the Point

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver
HarperCollins, 3/5/2013
Hardcover; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062184849

A place out of time, Ashaunt Point—a tiny finger of land jutting into Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts—has provided sanctuary and anchored life for generations of the Porter family, who summer along its remote, rocky shore. But in 1942, the U.S. Army arrives on the Point, bringing havoc and change. That summer, the two older Porter girls—teenagers Helen and Dossie—run wild. The children's Scottish nurse, Bea, falls in love. And youngest daughter Janie is entangled in an incident that cuts the season short and haunts the family for years to come.
As the decades pass, Helen and then her son Charlie return to the Point, seeking refuge from the chaos of rapidly changing times. But Ashaunt is not entirely removed from events unfolding beyond its borders. Neither Charlie nor his mother can escape the long shadow of history—Vietnam, the bitterly disputed real estate development of the Point, economic misfortune, illness, and tragedy.
An unforgettable portrait of one family's journey through the second half of the twentieth century, The End of the Point artfully probes the hairline fractures hidden beneath the surface of our lives and traces the fragile and enduring bonds that connect us. With subtlety and grace, Elizabeth Graver illuminates the powerful legacy of family and place, exploring what we are born into, what we pass down, preserve, cast off or willingly set free.

My Thoughts: 
The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver is a family saga that basically covers three generations, with the connection being their summers spent at the coast in Ashaunt, Massachusetts. Graver opens the novel with a brief passage about the arrival of the first Europeans to the point. Then she proceeds to 1942,  when the Porter family, three daughters and entourage arrive at the coast to find the army occupying a large portion of it with barracks and viewing platforms. This portion of the narrative is told through the voice of Bea, the Porter's Scottish nanny, but introduces us to other members of the family, especially Helen, the oldest daughter and Jane the youngest.

Then the novel jumps briefly to 1947 with letters from Helen, written when she was in Europe. It quickly switches to Helen's diary entries from 1960. The next section is set in 1970 and follows Helen's troubled oldest son, Charlie. The final year followed is 1999. Every character in The End of the Point is struggling with change and finding their place in the changing world around them.
Of the characters, Scottish nurse/nanny Bea is the most compelling. She has the courage to leave Scotland to seek employment in America, but struggles with truly living her own life. She is fretful about Janie and dislikes Helen, but is resolutely devoted to the Porter family and resists any change in her life that does not include them. I was totally swept up with Bea's story and looked forward to seeing the rest of this family saga through her eyes, an outsider but privy to the inside workings of the family.
However, once The End of the Point moved on and away from Bea's voice, for me it went down hill. Additionally, all the leaps from one time to another made the narrative feel abrupt and disjointed to me. In some ways I wish Graver had chose to connect the time periods by observing family members through Bea's eyes, and with her insight and perceptions about the situations. Once the first section from 1942 was over (a third of the novel) it went downhill for me. While I didn't care for the characters of Helen or Charlie, I was interested in Bea to the very end and looked for information on her life as the story continued.
What elevated my opinion of The End of the Point was Graves skillful writing. Graves writing ability shines through several murky plot points. She had some lyrical passages that just sang and resonated with me. Her powers of observation and description are incredible. So, even though parts of the novel didn't work for me it is Highly Recommended for the writing.  

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes.  

Elizabeth’s TLC Tour Stops:

Tuesday, March 5th: Caribousmom
Thursday, March 7th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, March 11th: nomadreader
Tuesday, March 12th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, March 13th: Speaking of Books
Thursday, March 14th: she treads softly
Monday, March 18th: Cold Read
Tuesday, March 19th: Book Chatter
Thursday, March 21st: Books in the City
Monday, March 25th: Book Addict Katie
Tuesday, March 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, March 27th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, March 28th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, April 2nd: missris


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that you can recommend this book based on the writing even though other parts of the book didn't work so well for you.

Thanks for being on the tour.

Anna said...

I just started this book and I'm enjoying the writing so far. Thanks for the heads up about the change in voice, being prepared for that will make it easier for me to adjust.