From Publishers Weekly
Coomer (One Vacant Chair
) weighs solitude against companionship and explores how "people can interfere with the smooth running of your life" in this artfully crafted but long-winded novel. Hannah Bryant, 34, is a successful artist living and painting on a rocky Maine isle. With her parents dead and her younger half-sister, Emily, in a strict religious order, her closest relative had been her great-uncle Arno, with whom she'd spent several summers on Ten Acres No Nine Island, hers when he died. Hannah relishes her seclusion and has "kept the island inviolable," with the exception of someone who's been mysteriously digging holes and a dog, Driftwood, who has washed ashore. When Emily writes to her about a boy in trouble who needs a place to hide, Hannah's staunchly guarded privacy begins to crumble. When more people arrive, they open closets to reveal all sorts of skeletons—about Arno's drug business and Hannah's art sales in particular—but, mired in detail and stretched across too many pages, the surprises may not be enough to sustain the reader interest. Coomer is a graceful writer, though, conveying natural beauty and emotional turmoil with equal polish. (June)
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Coomer's sixth novel lacks the comic zest of his previous effort, One Vacant Chair
(2003), as it tracks the arduous emotional growth of a reclusive artist. Hannah Weed is perfectly content living by herself on an island off the coast of Maine, left to her by her lobsterman uncle. Her artwork sells briskly at a gallery in New York, which allows her to devote all of her time to her creative pursuits. Then an old charmer of a dog washes ashore, followed some months later by an abused teenager. One human connection leads to another, and soon Hannah is hosting Thanksgiving dinner, aiding the rescue efforts of a whale-watch group, and providing shelter for her pregnant half-sister. When Hannah finds out who has been purchasing her art, her identity as a creative person is forever altered, and she begins to seriously question the way she has led her life. The pace of this overly long novel is slow, but Coomer excels at evoking the attractions of solitude versus the meaning of home and connection. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved