The End of The Point by Elizabeth Graver
Harper: March 3, 2013
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the May 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:
A precisely observed, superbly crafted novel, The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver charts the dramatic changes in the lives of three generations of one remarkable family, and the summer place that both shelters and isolates them.
Ashaunt Point, Massachusetts, has 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.
An unforgettable portrait of one family’s journey through the second half of the twentieth century, Elizabeth Graver’s 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.
If the author’s intent was to focus on the genre of literary fiction and its skim the surface type of nuances, she succeeded. She presents us with the Porter family unit that summers in a fictional town of Ashaunt, Massachusetts and rarely leaves the setting. The family includes children’s caregivers who were Scottish and we leave the Point to visit Scotland with the caregivers as a rare reprieve from Ashaunt. Other than that, the setting remains the same as the author focuses her story on the people in the family and their personal struggles. Bea, the caregiver who has no life outside the family she cares for; Helen, the precocious elder child; and later Charlie, who is Helen’s son who suffers from depression and drug dependence. The eras evoke significance, as we begin in the 1940’s and the war effort that was evident from the front porch of their summer escape; later wars and the sixties also lend background themes as causes to the eccentricities of the characters.
The prose reads fluidly, but once you get comfortable with the characters and the heavily foreshadowed plot told through third person, the events seem to stand still. In the last third of the novel there seems to be a lull as the author focuses on characterization with a very observational ambiance. One sentence will describe a character’s thought and in that same sentence offhandedly mentions that years later such and such happened. This constant peek into the future ruined whatever sort of wonder I had at what would happen to the characters. The novel portrays living at Ashaunt through the eyes of passing generations with a depressive slant towards the grim reality of persistent misunderstandings yet enduring constancy. Though it lacks the emotional impact I would have preferred, I did appreciate her descriptive style.