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Reunion at Red Paint Bay Paperback – January 29, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Actions—even those that are unintended or misunderstood—have consequences, as Simon Howe, owner and editor of the weekly newspaper in his hometown of Red Paint, Maine, is about to learn. With his twenty-fifth high-school reunion approaching, pillar-of-the-community Howe begins receiving anonymous postcards with cryptic and increasingly threatening messages. At the same time, a mysterious man turns up in town and begins stalking Howe’s family, sidling up to his 11-year-old son, Davey, at a carnival; spilling secrets to his therapist wife, Amy; even violating the sanctity of his home. The level of suspense and menace increases as the stalker’s identity and purpose become clear, and Howe is forced to confront what he did on his graduation night and how those actions reverberated in the lives of others. Harrar tackles some big issues here, notably vengeance, guilt, and absolution, with the underlying question of when sex becomes rape. But messages aside, this is tightly written psychological suspense from the author of The Spinning Man (2003). Harrar is one of those writers on the verge of connecting with a much larger audience; this could be his moment. --Michele Leber

Review

"This is a gripping thriller, utterly convincing and alarming, as people struggle to justify past deeds, weigh the costs of the truth and decide that maybe a half-lie is just as good."
—William Bushnell, Morning Sentinel (Maine)

“Harrar tacklessome big issues here, notably vengeance, guilt, and absolution, with the underlying question of when sex becomes rape. But messages aside, this is tightly written psychological suspense from the author of The Spinning Man (2003). Harrar is one of those writers on the verge of connecting with a much larger audience; this could be his moment.” —Booklist

“Harrar skillfully echoes Alfred Hitchcock’s theme about how a seemingly innocent man can be sucked into a disturbing vortex of forces that lie just below the surface of ‘normal’ life.” —Kirkus

"More than a conventional mystery or thriller, "Reunion at Red Paint Bay" lays bare the consequences of guilt, denial, and moral absolutism. The novel can be read on several levels, but it devolves into a book tailored to spur readers into examining the limits of responsibility for one's actions." —Huntington News

“George Harrar tells a remarkable story about a newspaperman who struggles to tell the truth, feeling reluctant to bear the consequences, a story of human failure and hard redemption. The writing, razor-sharp and wildly insightful, creates characters who seem to jump off the page—becoming people we know, people we are. Read this book, each page mysterious and compelling, hiding within it the deep core of being human.” —Elizabeth Cox, author of The Slow Moon
 
"Harrar's novel...is an intriguing and provocative take on some standard themes of contemporary fiction....Reunion at Red Paint Bay is well written even if it invites controversy and criticism. It is a memorable work that could spur some heated debate." —Metapsychology

"Secrets can haunt us. In George Harrar's novel Reunion At Red Paint Bay, secrets hunt us down for revenge." —Interview Magazine

"Ironies abound here in this suspenseful study of universal themes of guilt, innocence, punishment, atonement, and absolution as seen through the seemingly simple life of a hitherto respected man in Red Paint Bay." —Seeing the World Through Books

"George Harrar’s incisive look at the soft-focus lens through which we view our respective pasts" —Book Page

“The finale is unexpected and well-earned, fostering intriguing paths for each of the main characters, well past the last page. It’s the opposite of tying up all the loose ends into a shiny bow. For this kind of story, that is a welcome gift.” —The ARTery, WBUR Boston
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; First Edition edition (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515457
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,378,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Simon Greenleaf Howe, owner and editor of the Red Paint Register, has been living in rural Red Paint, Maine, for most of the twenty-five years since he graduated from high school there. With his wife Amy, a psychiatric therapist, and his eleven-year-old son Davey, Simon enjoys the bucolic environment and his ability to run his own life and job. So little happens in Red Paint, in fact, that Simon is thinking about a new tagline for the Register: "Nothing Happens--and We Report It." But something has happened, and something more is about to happen, not just the high school's 25th Reunion, which is scheduled in a few weeks, but a threat to Simon's own life related to events that occurred twenty-five years ago.

When Simon receives his first mysterious postcard from Salt Lake City, he does not think much about it. Soon after, however, he receives five more postcards from around the country, none of them signed, gradually hinting at some terrible deed that Simon committed in the past. Simon has no idea what it is. The cards continue to arrive, and Simon and Amy become more stressed and more impatient with each other. The final postcard is hand-delivered to the family's mailbox with a message demanding that Simon meet the sender on the dock below the local inn during the 25th reunion celebration.

Harrar slowly ratchets the tension up to the breaking point, in part by eventually giving the sender of the cards his own point of view, allowing him to make his case to the reader and giving context to Simon's crime. By the time the last card is delivered, its writer has been in Red Paint for a couple of weeks. He has discovered and visited Simon's house at night. He has approached Davey, the eleven-year-old son.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By GameGal on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
I just finished this book and was sorry to have it end. This is a not only a tense psychological suspense novel, that keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. But it's also a very thoughtful exploration of the fine line between guilt and innocence. The writing is crisp and sparse, which sets a perfect tone for this story that begins with seemingly ordinary people in a ordinary town until secrets from the past reveal that nothing and nobody in Red Paint, Maine is what they seem to be. I'm going to suggest this novel for my book club (there's a lot here to discuss). I also checked out the author's website and discovered this book was optioned for a movie in France. That's very cool, but I hope it comes with subtitles.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on January 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I get the impression that some people are not too excited about this book. When I first picked it up, I didn't expect to be giving it a five-star review. This is no idyllic novel about summer in a small town in Maine. As the blurb says, it's also not really a mystery or thriller. What it is is a great psychological novel that digs deep into sensitive subjects. Rape must be one of the most traumatic issues on the planet. As I'm writing this, there have been two horrific gang-rapes in India that made world news. I worked for years as a rape crisis counselor, so I do know the subject from Amy's viewpoint. I was really impressed that a male author could present the subject, which most people don't like to think about, from multiple points of view and do it so well. Sex crimes, more than other offenses, seem to make getting to the actual truth more difficult. Persons who are really victimized are often not believed. Persons who make false accusations are sometimes believed. Amy mentions feminist Catherine MacKinnon, who says the truth is what the woman believes is happening. Simon's character (and David's) cast doubt on this. They think the woman consented. All of this theory ignores the fact that men can also be raped, but the book didn't treat this issue. Simon tells his son near the end of the book that it's better to tell the truth. We never really know what the truth is. What if Paul was lying about everything in his marriage? What if Jean was lying about being forced to have sex? What if Simon has been lying to himself all these years? This is a book I'll be thinking about for a long time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody VINE VOICE on December 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Simon Howe has a pretty nice life. Maybe not everything he dreamed of when he was a young man expecting to escape his small Maine hometown of Red Paint, but pretty nice. He's the editor and owner of the local paper, even if it is a weekly where the biggest stories are things like town meetings and Simon's upcoming twenty-fifth high school reunion. He has a loving wife and an eleven-year-old son whose occasional moods and misbehavior are pretty standard for a pre-teen. He is, in short, the kind of ordinary man whose life is always being turned upside down in thrillers. And what's this? Mysterious postcards whose oblique threats gradually become more overt?

This both is and isn't the book you'd expect it to be based on that summary. Some aspects are standard-issue stuff that always happens in books and movies but never does in real life, which undermines the novel's deeper ambitions. But the larger problem with REUNION AT RED PAINT BAY is not the lurid quality of the plot, which is mitigated by a resolution that has more to do with theme than with narrative formula. The trouble instead is that the chosen theme, as in so many contemporary novels, is one of uncertainty and ambiguity, the mysterious, inexplicable nature of human behavior and the impossibility of definitive judgments about guilt and responsibility. This is, when well-handled, a potent subject, but by its nature a novel that abjures definitive judgment cannot impress by the sharp yet compassionate wisdom of that judgment, and must instead shine in its portrayal of the complex, often shocking actions it will not analyze. It is here that REUNION AT RED PAINT BAY falls short: Simon Howe is simply not a rich enough character to anchor a novel of this type.
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