From Publishers Weekly
National Book Award–winner Dew wraps up the trilogy she began with The Evidence Against Her by considering, in ways both joyful and elegiac, the juxtaposition of the profound and the mundane through the years 1953 to 1973 in smalltown Washburn, Ohio. Long-widowed schoolteacher Agnes Scofield, 54, reflects on her identity against the distant backdrop of polio scares, epic baseball games, nuclear threats, the space race, and civil rights strife, as everyday life in Washburn continues unabated. Prompted by a health scare and by passions and desires in her own and her children's lives, Agnes must decide whether to perpetuate convention or to choose the change swirling all around her, to embrace a "season of carelessness": what about that much younger suitor? Agnes is clearly a literary heir of Mrs. Ramsay, and the narrative, ranging freely not only among Agnes's sprawling family but also throughout her political and cultural milieu, owes a debt to Woolf. Particularly when read in conjunction with her other novels about Washburn, Dew's latest is an impressionistic portrait of a family and an age striving for clarity and understanding. (Jan.)
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In the third book of her trilogy (after The Evidence against Her, 2001, and The Truth of the Matter, 2005), Dew again visits the Scofield clan of Washburn, Ohio. As in the previous novels, the comings and goings of the extended family have a somewhat muted, anticlimactic feel to them. Couples fight but don’t break up; people fall deathly ill, then survive. The most startling part of the novel is a late-in-the-book chapter that attempts to consolidate the 1950s Asian flu outbreak, scientist Werner von Braun, and the popularity of a new china pattern. The chapter winds up with a self-referential breaking of the fourth wall so bizarre that one wonders if Dew threw it in just to make sure her readers were paying attention. This is a calm, gentle read for those who already know and care about the Scofield clan and a detail-rich slice of life for those interested in midcentury Americana. Perhaps like her characters, Dew also longs to burst forth into something new and will do so in her next novel. --Marta Segal Block
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