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"
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