Kalpakian's narrative skill and interest in generational legacies are evident in her latest novel, in which the theory of progressive education becomes the catalyst for a fateful intertwining of several lives. The setting is Temple School, founded by Sophia Westerveldt, the daughter of a lumber tycoon. Sophia had an affair with avant-garde painter Denis Aron in France, where she'd gone to develop her artistic sensibility before WWI. After the war she returned to Washington and, with her husband, started the experimental school for "North American Women of the Future" on Kalpakian's trademark setting, Isadora Island in Puget Sound. Waverly Scott, the 14-year-old illegitimate daughter of a rich man and his secretary, arrives at the school in 1939. Although Temple is past its prime, the next two years are the most important of Waverly's life, because she meets Avril Aron, the daughter of Sophia's old lover, who in 1940 is sent from occupied Paris. Avril and Waverly eventually become "Wavril," two bodies, one soul. Both girls fall for Sandy Lomax, a local boy with aspirations, who becomes Wavril's lover in a teen ménage à trois. Their summer of love is cut short when Waverly's mother removes her from the school. While Waverly fails to adjust to mainstream life, Avril marries Sandy and gives birth to a daughter before an accident changes everybody's life. Two decades later, Waverly returns to Isadora, where, adopting the nom de plume of Nona York, she becomes a successful romance writer. Memories of her youth are forcefully rekindled when her summer temp turns out to bear the legacy of long-ago love. References to characters in her previous Steps and Exes add depth to Kalpakian's story, but the narrative's main appeal lies in the well-kept secrets that eventually surface, casting the shadow of history on destinies formed in the wake of tragic events. (May)
Forecast:This is Kalpakian's most complex and moving novel so far, and it will profit from handselling to readers who like romantic stories told with literary flourish.
Release date: 05/01/2002