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The Right-Hand Shore: A Novel Hardcover – April 24, 2012
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“Constructed, Wuthering Heights style, . . . The Right-Hand Shore represents an outing of some of America's most troubled ghosts . . . Tilghman unfolds his harsh lesson with precision, delicacy and startling humor . . . ‘The Right-Hand Shore' is the dark, magisterial creation of a writer with an uncanny feel for the intersections of place and character in American history. His readers will want to hear more stories from the Eastern Shore estate. Let's just hope he doesn't keep us waiting for another 16 years.” ―Fernanda Eberstadt, New York Times Book Review
“Tilghman's exquisite third novel returns to the eastern shore of Maryland to prefigure the events of his first, Mason's Retreat. It's 1920, and recently married Edward Mason has arrived at the Retreat--a former planation and peach orchard, and now a dairy--to meet his distant cousin, Mary Bayly, the current owner. Mary's cancer has put the fate of the property in jeopardy--and Edward in line to receive the gift and burden of the land. After an unsettling interview with the formidable Mary, Edward sits with the longtime property manager, Oral French, and his wife, who recount the Retreat's secrets, from miscegenation to slavery to murder. Listening to the pain caused by pride, selfishness, and the desire for love, Edward feels ‘mauled by the pull of the past, still so fresh for these people.' The tale's descent into tragedy is nevertheless beautiful; ‘creamy yellow' sunlight and the perfume of peach blossoms pervade Mason's Retreat alongside its ghosts and horrors. Tilghman maneuvers through the misery of three generations, following each elegant plot turn inevitably back to its source: this living, breathing land on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Tilghman] writes so beautifully . . . His long paragraphs and the susurrus of Maryland landscape--‘water grasses with tufts of white blossoms, wild privet, and scraggly water elm'--weave an intoxicating spell. The novel's characters are utterly engrossing. All possess that American familial yen for somehow correcting the mistakes of their own upbringing--of doing better. Yet they are caught in a system designed for stasis. This contradiction creates terrible predicaments that seem designed to bear the maximum amount of pressure on the awful compromises Tilghman's characters must make.” ―John Freeman, The Boston Globe
“The past has a way of making hearts ache in Christopher Tilghman's excellent novel The Right-Hand Shore. Set in Maryland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his story explores the desires that drive people to try to overcome the past . . . Tilghman, who directs the creative writing program at the University of Virginia, is a short story writer as well as a novelist. Many chapters in his new book could nearly stand on their own as captivating glimpses into the relationships--white and black, owner and workman, man and woman, parent and child--that revolve around the Retreat . . . Tilghman's skill at presenting the clashing points of view for his characters is matched by his ability to evoke their place and time, whether it's a Catholic girls school in Paris or a black village on the peninsula called Tuckertown. There's never a false note, either, only poignant and surprising ones that linger long after the last page.” ―Douglas K. Daniel, Associated Press
“Tilghman is such a master of mood that . . . I just kept rereading isolated sentences--like lines of poetry--to savor his descriptions . . . He so fully inhabits the marshy souls of his characters, there's never any of those awkward moments where, as a reader, you're jarred out of his story with the awareness that you're reading ‘historical fiction.' With The Right-Hand Shore, Tilghman remains ‘the real deal.'” ―Maureen Corrigan, NPR
“A hugely enjoyable saga, elegantly told.” ―David Evans, Financial Times
“A rare achievement. Christopher Tilghman's vision of the American past--and particularly of individuals caught in the tidal sweep of history--is dazzling in its precision and clarity.” ―Charles Frazier, winner of the National Book Award for Cold Mountain
“Christopher Tilghman is a novelist's novelist in that he can hold the years in his head and then deal them out in a layered story so achingly gracious and incisive that it becomes for a week in a reader's house the very reason for the chair, the lamp. Offered in Tilghman's astonishing prose, the story of this place--focusing on two families, two races, the history of a peach orchard, and a love that is both natural and forbidden--is a reader's deep pleasure. The story flows inexorably through the insistent harm of the period, which is brought to such life that we see it is really our own. This is a big, wonderful novel.” ―Ron Carlson, author of The Signal and Five Skies
“This is bold storytelling--a man spends a day listening to tales of the past that become an eloquent set of voices sailing through his imagination and into an intimate history of a place called Mason's Retreat. It's a wonderful novel, unfolded in elegant and precise language.” ―Bobbie Ann Mason, author of Shiloh
“American literary fiction now offers far fewer pleasures than it did a few decades ago, but the novels and short stories of Christopher Tilghman go a long way toward making up for the failures of other writers.” ―Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post on Roads of the Heart
About the Author
Christopher Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father's Place and The Way People Run, and two novels, Mason's Retreat and Roads of the Heart. Currently the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Virginia, he and his wife, the writer Caroline Preston, live in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Top Customer Reviews
Christopher Tilghman's "The Right-Hand Shore" is one of the best books I have ever read, period.
When telling some coworkers recently about the book, I said, "It's about a Maryland house in the 1800 and 1900's." And truly, Mason's Retreat, the mansion, is a central character to this complex, moral tale. But it is so much more. It's about the family that lives in-between its walls, once slave-owning and now trying to navigate the post-Civil War racial waters of Maryland. It's about the former slaves, now servants and farm workers, who adjust to their lives of freedom in a society that will not truly be free for over a hundred years hence. It's about the literal rot of peaches on the acres of peach trees, and the devastating rot of racism.
In less masterful hands, these stories of these people could fall into melodrama, or cliche. But, Tilghman's writing is nothing short of masterful. There were sections, chapters that I didn't want to end because the story and the words were so carefully chosen and woven together. Countless times I stopped reading, and reread, just to revel in the words that were falling before my eyes. There were sections that I wish to highlight for their honest, insight, and connection. I dare not give examples, but many truly led me to tears, especially towards the end of the novel, and was I crying because of the events in the story or the end of this masterful book?Read more ›
The Retreat is now owned by Mary Bayly who is dying of cancer. She has never married. And we suspect that she is the last of her family to own this planation, this mansion. Mr. Edward Mason has been summoned to be "interviewd" as one of two possibilities as the inheriter. And the reader will not like him, recently married, not a Catholic--and Mary's mother, Ophilia, would have been so angry about that--and very much uninterested in the place or its history with what many of the blacks living on the land refer to as being cursed.
And then the author brings the reader into the back story of a planation where slaves were freed earlier than on other plantations, where they settled into their own little community on the planation. And where we meet Mary Bayly's mother, Ophilia Mason--recall it is Edward Mason who is there at the moment--who will shortly marry Wyatt Bayly. Miss Mary's mother wants nothing to do with this place because of the horrors her father, Mary's grandfather, brought to the lives of those living there. But Wyatt sees new possibilities.
Hence my punning of "peach" in the title.
Peach orchards. Huge ones. And much of the story centers around Wyatt's obsession with this project and with the introduction of the two children: Mary, the elder, and Thomas who for a while seems to be a ghost.Read more ›
The Right-Hand Shore is a love story on several levels. Transgressing the taboo of interracial love in the 19th century and beyond is a life threatening business for Thomas, an upper class white boy, and Beal, the daughter of a freed slave--what these two are willing to risk for romantic love makes for an extraordinarily moving story. Romeo and Juliet move aside. I found the second love story just as compelling. Love for the land/property is another large part of what drives the characters and plot of the Right-Hand Shore. And a love for this stretch of the Eastern Shore is clearly the artistic source of this author's masterful vision.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book will transport you to a large farm/plantation in Maryland in the 1800s. You'll follow a number of families as they live their lives through the changing times -... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jonathan Robbins
Engrossing , he writes of a complicated time long ago with wisdom and seemingly first hand knowledge of the era.
I would definitely recommend this book
This is a must read for anyone who lives on or is familiar with Maryland's Eastern Shore. Well written, great history of the area and a story that you can't put down.Published 20 months ago by Scott Deosaran
Not my favorite book, but it was well-written and left me wanting to know more about the families on the Eastern Shore and how slavery impacted the lives of Marylanders.Published 21 months ago by sheryl
Christopher Tilghman is the Styron of his age. He can weave a story that will grab your heart. But, like Styron, he can also break your heart. Read morePublished 22 months ago by richard
After reading it, I was surprised at all the great reviews it got. It really seemed to drag out in a lot of places, and was hard to identify with any of the characters.Published 23 months ago by KGreen
We live on the "Right Hand Shore" of the Chesapeake and I found that I learned many new facts about life on and around the Bay in reading this book. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Bam
The story starts as an interesting story about a woman attempting to find a male heir to inherit the legacy of The Retreat, a huge enclave in Maryland. Read morePublished on January 12, 2014 by Delphimo