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Summary and book reviews of Garner by Kirstin Allio

Garner

by Kirstin Allio

Garner
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  • Paperback:
    Sep 2005, 232 pages

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Book Summary

It is 1925 and the New Hampshire town of Garner's economic prospects are in decline.  A group of young, wealthy New Yorkers arrive for summer leisure, but when the body of a spirited, illusive girl is found in the stream this deeply private community begins to unravel.

Garner, New Hampshire is a town delineated by its Puritan ethics and its "Live Free or Die" mentality. In 1925, Garner's economic prospects are in decline and a group of young, wealthy New Yorkers descend on Frances Giddens's family farm for summer leisure. As Frances, a spirited, elusive girl born at the dawn of the twentieth century, is drawn to the romance the newcomers represent, darker forces are unleashed. When her body is found in rain-swollen Blood Brook, this deeply private community begins to unravel. As the story unfolds, Allio's beautiful, atmospheric prose reveals the town's hidden history and the fierce longings locked in the hearts of its citizens.

Part 1: The Postman

1

1925 

The postman used the roads and the woods alike and bareheaded on a day that provided such weather. If he came upon Frances it was always she who saw him first and he who, knowing himself watched, was pleasantly startled. A tree became a girl, he allowed himself to wonder.

Today, the stream was full with a sudden rain after a dry spell but he was a man of all weathers. Perhaps this was how he came to be postman. He dressed for modesty and economy in the same layers June and January. In spring the mud was clean and deep so as could heal a wound and if the postman had ever put his mouth to a gash in a maple tree and sucked the sap he told no one.

At the edge he held a sapling for balance, put a hand in, dabbed his forehead.

At first he thought it was an odd reflection from a reddish leaf, or a brick-colored stone on the bottom. Then he leaned in closer and it was surely blood for it curled and sank through the water. He thought ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

I found the first third of the book (part of which you can browse at BookBrowse) hard to follow as it intersperses elements of the storyline with historical musings from the postman and various other characters. However, on finishing the second section (which is written in a more linear style) I went back and read some of the first part and felt I had a better grasp on the story. Overall, an interesting first novel from a writer to watch, and one that should be of special interest to anyone living in New Hampshire.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Believer

It is rare to feel so truly transported by a work of fiction. Therefore, at the risk of alliterative (and accolade) excess, I dub Garner a masterly, multi-voiced, mood-altering mystery--and a debut so wise, certain, and cleverly empathetic as to seem the work of a sure-footed pro.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Allio's finely wrought writing - Frances has "a laugh of leaves," while Heald's wife muses that "the evening was what one married for" -- just barely overshadows a narrative that turns suspenseful in its final third.....an exceptional debut.

Author Blurb Rebecca Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne knew all about what happens when an individual's obligations to history and community meet a repressed passion. In Kirstin Allio's strange, startling and beautifully written first novel, Hawthorne may have found a worthy 21st century heir to his dark, evocative fable-making about that most American of locations, New England.

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Beyond the Book

Kirstin Allio has taught creative writing at Brown University and holds degrees from Brown and New York Universities. Born in Maine, she lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and sons. This is her first novel.

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