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Good Harbor: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Given the breadth of Anita Diamant's bestselling biblical epic, The Red Tent, it seems natural that her second novel has a much closer focus. Set in the small Massachusetts fishing town of Gloucester, Good Harbor is a slow-paced study of female friendship. Here Diamant can luxuriate in the development of just two principal characters: 59-year-old Kathleen Levine, a children's librarian who is undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, and a 42-year-old romance novelist, Joyce Tabachnik, who has bought a summer retreat in Gloucester in the hope of finally writing a "serious" book. The two meet at temple after a service presided over by a newly hired female rabbi. (What joy it must have been for Diamant, who chronicled so much oppression of Hebrew women in The Red Tent, to casually include the presence of female clergy.) Kathleen has no real confidante aside from her husband, Buddy; Joyce is facing estrangement from both her business-minded husband, Frank, and her soccer-obsessed daughter, Nina. What the women are lacking, they find in each other. As their intimacy grows, Diamant sometimes tells us what we already know, breaking into a conversation, for example, to announce how well things are going ("They smiled at each other. They were going to be okay."). This is a moving story nonetheless--short on incident, but with carefully drawn characters and fluid, matter-of-fact prose. --Regina Marler

From Library Journal

A well-respected author who made news with her fiction debut, The Red Tent, Diamant draws a portrait of a friendship between women that weathers illness and infidelity. Kathleen Levine, a children's librarian in Cape Ann, MA, is 59 years old, married, and the mother of two grown sons. She is also suffering from breast cancer, which brings overwhelming solicitousness from others and countless stories of other women's illness. She is no stranger to the disease, having lived through her sister's death from breast cancer. Joyce Tabachnik is a journalist and pseudonymous romance novelist. Now 42, she is married and has a 12-year-old daughter who bristles at anything her parents say and do. The two Jewish women Joyce by birth, Kathleen by conversion meet at synagogue one Friday evening and begin a relationship that will take them up the Good Harbor beach in Gloucester for frequent walks and talks and through the momentous challenges and fears of their varied lives. Kathleen's ordeal with cancer, especially radiation treatment, rings true, and her honest, compassionate friendship with Joyce, who is doubting her own marriage and her ability to write, will touch readers as they recognize these women's frailties and strengths. Aside from a subplot concerning drug dealing that seems out of place, this is a wonderful story that most libraries should acquire.
- Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743225325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743225328
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In my first novel, The Red Tent, I re-imagined the culture of biblical women as close, sustaining, and strong, but I am not the least bit nostalgic for that world without antibiotics, or birth control, or the printed page. Women were restricted and vulnerable in body, mind, and spirit, a condition that persists wherever women are not permitted to read.

When I was a child, the public library on Osborne Terrace in Newark, New Jersey, was one of the first places I was allowed to walk to all by myself. I went every week, and I can still draw a map of the children's room, up a flight of stairs,where the Louisa May Alcott books were arranged to the left as you entered.
Nonfiction, near the middle of the room, was loaded with biographies. I read several about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller, with whom I share a birthday.

But by the time I was 11, the children's library was starting to feel confining,so I snuck downstairs to the adult stacks for a copy of The Good Earth. (I had overheard a grown-up conversation about the book and it sounded interesting.)The librarian at the desk glanced at the title and said I wasn't old enough for the novel and furthermore my card only entitled me to take out children's books.

I defended my choice. I said my parents had given me permission, which was only half a fib since my mother and father had never denied me any book. Eventually,the librarian relented and I walked home, triumphant. I had access to the BIG LIBRARY. My world would never be the same.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Budd on November 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When you are the renowned author of "The Red Tent," how do you top yourself? Unfortunately, "Good Harbor" was not able to do that. However, "Good Harbor" captured my attention and I was taken in about the story of a friendship.
Kathleen, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, meets Joyce, a romance writer. The friendship flourishes immediately as they enjoy walks together on Good Harbor. Through the walks, each woman feels safe in confiding with the other. There are many issues that "Good Harbor" addresses: cancer, religion, parenting, death, infidelity, and relationships.
Diamant is a master at setting the scene. She describes the beauty of Good Harbor and Kathleen's garden so precisely that the reader is able to create a mental image. This was the strongest feature in the novel.
"Good Harbor" is a novel with its own merit, however many will find it difficult not to compare it with "The Red Tent." I encourage readers to try "Good Harbor" and see a different side of Anita Diamant. I eagerly anticipate Diamant's future work.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By RBoyd VINE VOICE on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Ok, so it's not like her first book, "The Red Tent" ~~ but I didn't care as Diamant writes with her usual care and precision in telling a story. And I really enjoyed this book. I am not middle-aged yet, but I have always enjoyed reading a book that talks about friendship between two women. Having good friends of my own ~~ I really enjoy reading the friendship between Joyce and Kathleen. Joyce struggles with a marriage that seems to be heading for the rocks, a troubled relationship with her daughter and Kathleen struggles with her memories and guilt as she battles breast cancer. And when those two met ~~ they help each other heal. It's a wonderful journey through the pages watching how each of the woman grows into a delightful and more confident woman. It proves the old Biblical adage true ~~ one cannot walk through life alone.
I really enjoyed the different pace in the scenery. I love to take long walks and though I don't live near the ocean, whenever my girlfriends and I get together, sometimes our best conversations in life happens on a walk. There is something uplifting about walking with close friends ... and something totally relaxing. You can't hide confidents when you're relaxed. And I admire how Joyce and Kathleen would just call each other up and say, "Let's go for a walk." And in those walks, they confide into each other that they wouldn't confide to their husbands. Just like women everywhere.
If you like to read books about friendship and loyalty ~~ this is a good read. Diamant won't disappoint you with her writing. And you'll be lulled by the soft voices of women talking by the sea.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Carey on December 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a huge fan of The Red Tent, Diamant's previous work, I was eager to read Good Harbor. What I found was a novel as concentrated in focus as The Red Tent is epic in scale yet that was written with as much care and creativity. Good Harbor is a warm, thoughtful exploration of the lives and friendship between two seemingly disparate women.
The name of the book comes from a location in the coastal New England town where the characters reside. Kathleen, a life-long resident and children's librarian recently diagnosed with breast cancer, which killed her beloved sister, meets Joyce, a younger woman living out her dream - sort of - of a second home near the coast in the same town. The two strike up a friendship as Kathleen deals with her recovery from her illness and past tragedies and Joyce tries to find the self that she feels has been lost.
There is genuine caring and empathy between the women, and the instant bond that is formed seems completely realistic and understandable. And while events do not take place on a grand scale, the women change, grow and make mistakes throughout the course of the novel, emerging at the end the same yet different. It's a marvelous story, very well-written, detailed, interesting and enjoyable, sustained by the warmth and strength of the friendship.
While Good Harbor is incredibly different from The Red Tent, that is not a handicap in anyway, just a testament to Diamant's strength as a writer. And despite the shift in scale - a much smaller span of time, locale, etc. - many of the same themes emerge. It's not a sweeping epic in traditional terms, but in a way, it focuses on a similarly dramatic time in the lives of the central characters and is treated with the depth and breadth necessary. Diamant has again lovingly created a tale of dynamic women and a compelling, worth-while novel.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2002
Format: Audio Cassette
With her debut novel, Red Tent (1997 Anita Diament chronicled the lives of women in ancient times by fictionalizing a Bible story. Once again the author's novel examines relationships between women but this time in a very contemporary setting. Linda Emond gives sympathetic reading to this affecting tale.
We are introduced to almost 60-year-old librarian Kathleen Levine of Gloucester, Massachusetts when she is diagnosed with breast cancer and must undergo radiation treatments. The diagnosis and ensuing therapy throws her life into a whirlpool of stress. She is understandably frightened and further burdened by long held secrets.
Joyce Tabachnik, a free lance writer who has recently enjoyed considerable success with a novel, has just bought a small home in Gloucester where she hopes to continue writing and enjoy visits from her family. But Joyce, too, is beset by woes of a different nature.
The two women meet, walk the nearby beach together, and share their thoughts. Out of a chance meeting a bond of friendship develops which is both supportive and affirming.
Definitely a woman's book for those who wish to lose themselves in another's travails.
- Gail Cooke
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