Kensington, Jan 2009, $15.00
In Two Rivers, Vermont, twelve years back in 1968 Harper Montgomery no longer considered himself a living human. That year his wife Betsy died and he was involved in a vicious murder of a black man. Harper goes through the motions of living, but has never moved past grief or his guilt. Filled with remorse, Harper knows if it was not for the fact his daughter needs him, he probably would have committed suicide just like a friend involved with the homicide did. Thus he still works for the railroad and does his best to raise his daughter Shelly as a single dad.
In 1980, a train derailment occurs. One of the survivors is a young pregnant black teen who needs a place to stay. Harper brings Marguerite “Maggie” Dufresne into his household as a form of repentance for what he and others did a dozen years ago. She tells him she is on her way to Canada having been raped. As he muses on his time with Betsy in the volatile 1960s, Harper begins to wonder if Maggie deliberately came to Two Rivers seeking closure just as Harper has struggles with too.
This complex character driven drama is well written, but not an easy read as metaphors like the name of the town and the confluence of its rivers at the town provide deep insight into the hidden internal battles between passion for the future and remorse for the past. The three prime characters seem fully developed with the adults each having a secret agenda fueling their relationship. Betsy and the murdered black male come alive through mostly Harper’s memory tinted by his psychological defense mechanism lens; which in turn makes part of the story line a historical romance and part a suspense thriller that converge into a profound character study. Readers who relish a deep but complicated drama will want to read this strong New England tale.