The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve (Back Bay Books, 1998, 288pp.)
Jean, a photographer working for a magazine, is assigned to take photographs of Smuttynose, an island off the coast of New Hampshire that was once home to an ill-fated family of Norwegian immigrants. It was here, in 1873, that Maren Hontvedt became the sole survivor of a vicious ax-murder that claimed the lives of both her sister and her brother’s wife. Although a former employee of the Hontvedts was accused, tried, and executed for the crime, Jean stumbles upon shocking evidence that points to a completely different culprit. The novel alternates between Maren’s and Jean’s points of view as the two women narrate their stories. The novel isn’t perfect. The “Jean” storyline isn’t nearly as interesting as the “Maren” storyline, and Shreve comes close to revealing the plot twist with a few ill-placed hints. However, Maren’s story is a sympathetic and compelling one, and will keep the reader turning pages until the end.
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