cover image Chorus


Rebecca Kauffman. Counterpoint, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-64009-518-2

Kauffman’s luminous latest (after House on Fripp Island) showcases her knack for delving into the hearts of her characters. The Shaw family is altered forever after the mother, who took to her bed sometime after the birth of her seventh child, dies in 1933, the result of “mistaking sleeping pills for nervousness pills. So they said. Or the other way around,” according to her two oldest children. In a seamless and sprawling narrative covering the early 20th century through the 1950s, Kauffman poignantly portrays all the Shaw family members, among them Wendy, the oldest, who falls into a caretaker role for her father after the rest of her siblings grow up and leave home; Jack, an alcoholic; Lane, pregnant at 15; and Bette, the youngest, whose husband dies in a freak accident when she is newly pregnant with their second child. Throughout, the author probes the ways the siblings are shaped by their mother’s death, a possible suicide. The siblings’ alliances, particularly that of Jack and Lane, are revealed via vibrant prose, as are family secrets such as the truth about Lane’s pregnancy. It adds up to a superbly executed saga. (Mar.)