cover image Spartina


John Casey. Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95 (375pp) ISBN 978-0-394-50098-0

In his first novel since his 1978 debut with An American Romance , Casey uses a simple, unadorned narrative style to create an evocative character study. Dick Pierce is a Rhode Island fisherman who has managed to support his wife and two sons but has always found bigger and easier money just one step--a bank loan, a sponsor, a bigger boat--out of his reach. Instead, he works alone, and occasionally takes rich couples out for fishing runs, although he can barely tolerate their arrogance and dilettantish behavior. Taciturn and restless in his 40s, he grows inward, nursing grudges and regrets, until the unexpected occurs: an affair with Elsie, a bright young National Resources warden who alone has the power to draw out and challenge her lover. Gruff and relatively inexpressive, Pierce might be an impenetrable central character in the hands of a lesser writer, but Casey's skills as a portraitist are considerable; he captures just enough of Pierce's private moments and lonely fears to make him touching and believable. (June)