"The first time I saw Marian Ballantine she looked like a burst of bittersweet among the winter branches..."
And so begins a tale of love lost and found, the rekindling of a passion for life that two people discover with each other, and the complex dynamics of family and friendship.
Geoffrey Tremont is untroubled by his neat, contented bachelor life in bustling New York City, filled with sophisticated friends, an undemanding lover devoted to her own career, and his wise brother, a psychiatrist who is the only one who sees and understands him completely - just the way Geoffrey wants it. On an ordinary day, Geoffrey arrives home to find a letter awaiting him with a postmark from an unfamiliar town: Shady Grove, New York. An old friend has named him the executor of her estate. Twenty years ago, in college, Geoffrey and Laura Welles had been each other's confidant; as their lives diverged, they went their separate ways. Now, she's reached out of the past to ask him a final favor. Laura's death has also brought her brother, Simon, to Geoffrey's doorstep. With his sister gone, Simon has no one but her old friend Geoffrey with whom to settle past grievances.
With Simon in tow, Geoffrey travels up to Laura's hometown - the place she chose to live her final years - where he meets Marian Ballantine. A widow living in the shadow of an idyllic marriage, and now grieving the loss of her best friend, Marian knows a lot about Geoffrey. Laura often spoke of him, she tells him, and though he's flattered, he's also thrown off balance. From the moment he first sees her, Geoffrey instinctively knows this attractive, plainspoken woman has the power to upend his cool, compartmentalized life. What Marian knows is that life comes with no guarantees, no promises of lasting happiness, and although she finds herself unsettled by this persistent, compelling man, she's unwilling to trade her hard-won, quotidian existence for an indefinite future. Faced with the decision to embrace the unknown or retreat to the safety of the familiar, they will both have to discover the courage it takes to tumble into the abyss of love.
The First Warm Evening of the Year is a gripping and evocative novel that resonates on every page with the joys and pains of being alive. It is a novel that more than satisfies the promise of the author's debut, Light of Day, about which the Indianapolis Star said, "Saul's ability to create deep and interesting characters is a strength that no doubt will surface time and again in future works," and prompted Bookreporter.com to praise Saul's "sensitivity and rare understanding of the human psyche."
"Saul's ability to create deep and interesting characters is a strength that no doubt will surface time and again." - Indianapolis Star
"A writer supremely confident of his vision, Saul leaves us stunned and breathless." - Orlando Sentinel
"This talky love story will turn the most romantic reader into a curmudgeon." - Kirkus Reviews
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Rated of 5
Julie M. (St. Paul, MN)
Fate or Luck?
This story reinforced my belief that people are put in our path or in our lives for a reason and sometimes one connection can lead to another with another person. Also that not everyone is ready for a committed relationship early in life, but eventually we all seem to desire it.
Rated of 5
Marcia M. (Woburn, MA)
Characters Are Everything...Or Not
I really wanted to like this book; after all, my favorite cover icon (an adirondack chair) is right there…on a dock…at sunset. However, I just couldn't warm up to this cast of self-absorbed characters and all of their various past loves and past lives.
There were two quote snippets that summed things up for me. The first, "Oh well, what's the point of having a heart, if you're not going to use it?," made me wonder why these characters were always mistaking their heads for their hearts. The second (found very near the end of the book), "I wish we stopped turning everything we say indisde out...Turning each other inside out," made me wonder why one of them hadn't thought of this sooner.
There were small, setting-related details of the story that I found very touching; but overall, this book fell a little short of hitting my reading bliss spot.
Rated of 5
Caryl L. (Williamsburg, VA)
first warm evening of the year
This is a delightful book telling the story of three lives intertwined in a sea of conflicting emotions and conflicts.
Marion, a widow, satisfied with her stagnant life, after her husband,s death. Geoffrey, hoping to free his busy life in NYC busy with social connections and cocktail parties and anxious to make his life meaningful. Eliot, in love with Marion but unable express it.
Saul has the ability to look into the hearts and minds of his characters. He shows a deep understanding of the human mind and heart.
Rated of 5
Eloise F. (Poway, CA)
Story not believable
I've never checked on reviews before while reading a book to review, but I did here halfway through, because I thought I simply was missing something. I was bored, unimpressed with supposed love at first sight with someone who would not give the hero the time of day. The story of the two brothers was a distraction that made no sense. The second half of the book actually picked up a bit (probably because the brothers stepped out of the plot). It was a soft and even pleasant read but I'd not recommend it.
Rated of 5
Kate S. (arvada, CO)
Life in Jr. High School
Where to start with this review? I felt the writing was amateurish, and terribly dragging in plot and character development. The worst of it was I felt like I was back in Jr. High School. The story, the crushes, the "love at first sight". Please, he does not even know the woman and he is in love with her and can't stop thinking about her! I am forgiving on plot and characters if the writing is good. I felt like a High School teacher reading a really bad, really long student paper.
Like another reviewer, I only finished it because I committed myself to reading it and reviewing it. I would never recommend this to anyone. With so many talented and accomplished authors trying to publish; it is sad this is what is being offered to readers.
Rated of 5
Mary S. (Hilton Head Island, SC)
Not Worth The Time
I wanted to like this book, unfortunately the author never caught my attention or interest. The novel seemed to be more of a memoir by the author who was working out his own psychological hangups and issues. The writing was clumsy and pedantic. Reminded me more of a low class romance novel than a "tour de force' as highlighted on the book jacket.
Jamie M. Saul was born and raised in New York City. He has written for various magazines, including People and Playboy. A two-time guest professor at Yale University, he was the recipient of the Poynter Fellowship. He is the author of the novel Light of Day. He divides his time between New York City and a small town in the Hudson Valley.
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