The Northern Reach: Book summary and reviews of The Northern Reach by W.S. Winslow

The Northern Reach

by W.S. Winslow

The Northern Reach by W.S. Winslow X
The Northern Reach by W.S. Winslow
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Book Summary

A heart-wrenching first novel about the power of place and family ties, the weight of the stories we choose to tell, and the burden of those we hide

Frozen in grief after the loss of her son at sea, Edith Baines stares across the water at a schooner, under full sail yet motionless in the winter wind and surging tide of the Northern Reach. Edith seems to be hallucinating. Or is she? Edith's boat-watch opens The Northern Reach, set in the coastal town of Wellbridge, Maine, where townspeople squeeze a living from the perilous bay or scrape by on the largesse of the summer folk and whatever they can cobble together, salvage, or grab.

At the center of town life is the Baines family, land-rich, cash-poor descendants of town founders, along with the ne'er-do-well Moody clan, the Martins of Skunk Pond, and the dirt farming, bootlegging Edgecombs. Over the course of the twentieth century, the families intersect, interact, and intermarry, grappling with secrets and prejudices that span generations, opening new wounds and reckoning with old ghosts.

W. S. Winslow's The Northern Reach is a breathtaking debut about the complexity of family, the cultural legacy of place, and the people and experiences that shape us.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A]mbitious if overstuffed...Winslow dutifully captures a sense of place and has an ear for dry New England wit, but the large cast and shuffled snapshots across a broad timeline make this a bit unwieldy. In the end, the fractured form doesn't do justice to the material." - Publishers Weekly

"Uneven and very slow to gather momentum but worth the effort for admirers of serious literary fiction." - Kirkus Reviews

"This novel interrogates legacies as deep and fractured, and as bleak and full of heart as the state of Maine, where this story takes place. Poverty, religion, silences, boatbuilding, and domestic violence, all on the rocky shores of the coast and driven by memorable characters who feel genuine to Maine lives, this is a story of reckoning both beautiful and despairing." - Kerri Arsenault, author of Mill Town

"Is there anything better than getting to walk through a small and unfamiliar town and peer through the windows into the lives lived in the houses there? The Northern Reach gives you that rich and satisfying treat. Here is a Maine as various and stark as the pull of tides in every human heart." – Sarah Blake, author of The Guest Book

"There should be a term for that rare, specific pleasure when a writer takes you to place you've never been and by the time the book is finished you feel like you know the landscape and its people as well as you do your own…Winslow's debut novel is such a book, her clear-eyed vision of a small town in Maine is both steely and humane, and as transporting as a ticket home." – Helen Schulman, author of Come With Me

"If Johnny Cash had sung of New England, he might have envisioned these sweeping, haunted, hilarious and sad tales of WS Winslow's…This is a devastating book by a major storyteller." – John Freeman, author of How to Read a Novelist

This information about The Northern Reach shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Maggie R. (Canoga Park, CA)

Definitely 5 stars
It has been challenging to find books to read avidly as 2020 passed by. I have never started and put down so many promising titles. So The Northern Reach is a particular pleasure. It is both expansive and compact with generations of interlocked families clearly identified in a complete family tree at the beginning with smaller trees at the beginning of each time shift. The cast is large, but this technique is actually more useful than the x ray feature of some Kindle books. The setting and plot - such as it is - has been well described by others. My goal is to encourage those readers who are reluctant to dive into a multi-generational tome.

Alison F. (Clearwater, FL)

Sweeping Family Saga
I thoroughly enjoyed this family saga set in coastal Maine. It reminded me of Louise Erdrich's Live Medicine in its scope and the interweaving of various families over many years. It also beautifully written and evokes a sense of place that makes this book even more exceptional. The chapters move about in time and they are tied together but it is better to consider them as short stories than to figure who is who. Finally, the stories lean toward dark and bleak but beautiful at the same time.

Rose N. (Saginaw, MI)

A Town and Family in Maine
What a joy it is to look in on this Maine town, near the Northern Reach, and be introduced to one of its extended families. One can easily relate to the ups and downs, the happy times and the sad times, that each family member experiences. Winslow expertly creates a portrait of ordinary people in a way that reflects the foibles of life many of us know, sometimes endure, and often love.

Linda J. (Urbana, OH)

Everybody's Family is a little bit...
This is the story of family interactions in a small town in Maine. Some are Catholic. Some are not. Some were born on the "right" side of the tracks. Some were not. Some are faithful to their spouse. Some are not. Some are liked by others in the town. Others...

At first, I had a little trouble, despite family trees posted at the beginning of each chapter, following where I was reading on the tree. Eventually, I stopped worrying about it and just went along for the ride. It was a pleasant journey.

This cradle Catholic, long time church organist has NEVER heard the song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" in a Catholic Church. Too popular/secular?

cece j

the northern reach
I am not a fan of long family sagas that can drone on for hundreds of pages, but this new author has given us a novel of vignettes about four families in upper Maine over most of the last century, who are far from dull or mundane. She has chosen her words well to tell their stories of grief, heart break, lost love and secrets in a completely compelling way. You might find many of the characters unlikable, and they often do not like each other, but they are always connected and drawn back to each other by strong family bonds that force them to reveal their love and guilt and dependence on each other -- so much like my own large family. While their foibles can bring smiles and laughs to you, they might also bring tears. I will be watching for Ms. Winslow's next novel and hope it appears soon.

Leslie G. (Peabody, MA)

Great Debut
The Northern Reach is an extraordinary debut novel. The interconnected stories that make up the work deal, in almost all cases, with individuals who possess yearnings for what could have been. Their everyday lives chronicle a litany of unfulfilled desires. The harsh Maine seascape perfectly reflects the internal challenges the characters undergo. The lyrical language of The Northern Reach will resonate long after the reader has finished the novel.

...8 more reader reviews

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Author Information

W.S. Winslow

W.S. Winslow was born and raised in Maine, but spent most of her working life in San Francisco and New York in corporate communications and marketing. A ninth-generation Mainer, she now spends most of the year in a small town Downeast. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in French from the University of Maine, and an MFA from NYU. Her fiction has been published in Yemassee Journal and Bird's Thumb. The Northern Reach is her first novel.

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