The Drowning House

Elizabeth Black, Author
Elizabeth Black. Doubleday/Talese, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-53586-1
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-307-94906-6
Hardcover - 400 pages - 978-1-61173-698-4
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Galveston, Tex., a place indelibly marked by the hurricane of 1900, which took well over 6,000 lives, is the setting for Black’s fine debut. In present day, after the death of her six-year-old daughter and the collapse of her marriage, a broken Clare Porterfield returns to her island hometown after a decade away. She’s been invited to choose material for a photo exhibition funded by the prominent Carraday family, whose patriarch, the Jay Gatsbyesque Will, has deep ties to Clare’s mother, Eleanor. As children, Will’s son, Patrick, and Clare were inseparable, their youthful exploits in and around the Porterfield house gradually tending toward the illegal, but a tragedy involving Patrick sent Clare away from home. Although Clare returns to look at photos of the island’s history, what she really seeks is what remains of her wounded self. As Clare searches for the elusive Patrick, the true object of her desire, island characters divulge truths to which she was never privy. As Galveston’s past comes to light, so, too, does Clare’s—and it’s so full of woe it nearly drowns the story. Nevertheless, Black mythologizes this landscape, evoking its essence and that of its inhabitants, creating a novel that is far more than the sum of its parts. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Jan.)
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