cover image Floating Cities: Venice, Amsterdam, Leningrad--And Moscow

Floating Cities: Venice, Amsterdam, Leningrad--And Moscow

Stephen Wiltshire. Summit Books, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-75568-3

Moore's remarkably accomplished first novel opens in rural Maine in the late 1950s, with the burning of a chicken barn and the death of 800 chickens, destroying the sole livelihood of the Rudge family. In fluid, often lyrical but authentic prose, Moore portrays the family's poverty and the harsh realities of their struggle to survive. Forced to leave the farm, they move to Portland, where Jarvis Rudge finds work as a handyman, but is soon laid off. They return to the country, becoming tenants on a farm owned by mean and evil Marvin and Gordon Cord, who use foster children for cheap labor; one night, the Cords beat one of these starving children to death. The surviving brother seeks refuge with the Rudges and becomes a permanent part of their lives. Moore skillfully interweaves the story of another grimly penurious family, the Pembrokes, who become joined to the Rudges in the next generation through the marriage of Logan Pembroke and Krista Rudge, doomed to repeat the cycle of cruelty, abuse and desperation. Moore's memorable characters have distinct personalities and voices, and she depicts them without patronizing or sentimentality. Like Carolyn Chute, she evokes the emotional landscape of Maine's hardscrabble laborers with insight and compassion. This is a stunning debut. (Jan.)