Anthony Weller, Author . Norton $24.95 (380p) ISBN 978-0-393-05886-4

Weller (The Garden of the Peacocks , etc.) spins a simple premise into gold in this delightfully written, darkly comic novel. Salt Cove, an old fishing port an hour north of Boston, has everything a classic New England beach village should: a picturesque cove with bobbing sailboats, austere granite outcroppings, stone beaches and traditional architecture, including a dilapidated but still lovely 19th-century wooden pedestrian bridge. When the Massachusetts Department of Public Works decides the bridge must be replaced by a safer—and far uglier—"concrete structure," the Salines vow to fight. After a period of failed negotiation and escalating conflicts, the villagers decide their only option is to secede from the United States. Weller lets the tale unfold through 31 individual characters, each of whom narrate one or more first-person chapters. The chief historian and chronicler is Jessica Stoddard, an older longtime resident whose notes and comments provide the novel's sturdy backbone. The hero and leader of the rebellion is Toby Auberon, a reclusive ex-lawyer who lives in the local lighthouse and is obsessed with constructing "the greatest pinball machine ever created." The conflict escalates after Salt Cove secedes, and the villagers scramble to arm themselves and figure out why the state is so determined to tear down their bridge. The novel's time is fluid, slipping easily between past, present and future, and Weller adds a touch of magic realism as he allows several characters to speak from beyond the grave. While this all might sound confusing, it isn't. Weller is in complete control of his material, a master conductor creating a symphony out of what would have been, in lesser hands, a simple melody. Agent, Henry Dunow. (June)

Forecast : Booksellers should hand-sell this one to fans of literary mysteries and mainstream novels with a bit of intrigue. The May-December romance between Toby and Jessica is added value that will seduce and satisfy even more readers.

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 380 pages - 978-0-393-32708-3
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-393-34318-2
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