Small-Town Wonders: Background information when reading All That Is

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All That Is

by James Salter

All That Is by James Salter
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2014, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Small-Town Wonders

Print Review

The view from the Firehouse on Sparkill creekIn All That Is, just after World War II, one of Bowman's good friends is so captivated by the village of Piermont, New York that he buys a house close to the water and watches the Hudson river flow by from his home. The town, in New York's Rockland County, is picturesquely framed by the Hudson river on one side and the Tallman Mountain State Park on the other.

These days Piermont, which is just a few miles south of the Tappan Zee bridge (one of the main connectors between New York City and New Jersey), is a fashionable village attracting yuppie visitors and artists, but not so long ago it was quite a depressed town. It had a manufacturing base and was home to the Continental Can Company in the 50s and a paper company, which shuttered down in the 1970s. Piermont was so depressed during the '70s that Woody Allen shot a depression era movie in the town. This continued into the 80s, and more recently the town suffered significant damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Despite Sandy, today Piermont is a thriving, spirited community, and a destination for bird watching, fishing, and hiking, as well as one of the best places to view the Hudson and the scenic Palisades cliffs. It is also home to the Piermont drawbridge, which was built in 1880 by the King Iron Bridge Company. It's possibly the only known hand-bridge in the United States.

Trinity Church in Upperville, VAUpperville, Virginia, is also beautifully portrayed in All That Is. Bowman travels to Virginia, home to his ex-wife, Vivian Amussen. The family owns horse farms and most of the parts of the story that are set in Virginia are based in Upperville. During the time period that the book is set in (shortly after World War II), there were no hotels in this small village, you could only live there. The unincorporated village boasts of many thoroughbred horse farms and hosts the annual Upperville Horse and Colt Show, the oldest horse show in the United States. An architecturally beautiful church, Trinity Church, is one of the village's attractions. Built in the 1950s in the style of a medieval cathedral, it is the third church on the site since 1842.

Upperville once enjoyed popularity as a stop on a trade route. These days, it is best known for its scenic beauty (with its rolling hills, small-town charm, and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains) and of course, the horses. In All That Is, Vivian's father, George, owns a horse farm as well. Many affluent families have their estates in the village which is a Virginia Historic Landmark, on the National Register of Historic Places and within commuter distance of Washington DC.

First photo of a view of the waterfall from the drawbridge at The Firehouse, courtesy of RiverView B&B in Piermont, NY

Second photo of Trinity Church in Upperville, VA

Article by Poornima Apte

This article was originally published in April 2013, and has been updated for the January 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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