cover image Crowfoot Ridge

Crowfoot Ridge

Ann Brandt. HarperCollins Publishers, $20 (278pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019215-0

Brandt makes a strong and steady impression with her debut novel (originally self-published), exploring one woman's struggle to unlock the secrets of her past. Avery met her husband, Ken Kessler, in college in the '60's, and 18 years later, family and friends are still telling her how lucky she is to be married to the successful Florida real-estate developer. But Avery's not so sure. She's at odds with Ken over his company's anti-environmental greed and suspicious of his fidelity; their relationship has deteriorated to separate bedrooms. Avery's epiphanic crisis following a car accident makes her recognize that she's never lived in the present because she's never faced up to traumatic events in her youth. She decides to leave Ken and return to the site of her childhood joy and sorrow, Crowfoot Ridge in North Carolina, where she and her family vacationed every summer. Avery's best friend Sylva Marshall--whom she hasn't seen in 21 years--still lives there, as well as Sylva's brother Mars, the great love of Avery's life. It's also where, one horrible night, an act of violence occurred, necessitating lies and secrets that Avery feels she must now confront. Brandt skillfully paints the nostalgic and mournful picture of Avery's first love and friendships; the juxtaposition of slick Florida realtors with the more down-home mountain folk of North Carolina makes for rich and effective contrast. She gets the small details right as well, capturing the way Avery has idealized Mars and inflated his memory, and she draws multidimensional heroes and villains. Without becoming preachy, Brandt makes a persuasive case for dealing with the past in order to heal. Agent, Jillian Manus. (Apr.) FYI: When the publisher who had her novel under contract reneged, Brandt mortgaged her house to self-publish the book. She sent a copy to Manus, who sold it to HarperCollins within 10 days.