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Praise for The Right-Hand Shore:
“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
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.
I read this book many months ago and I can't get it out of my head.
This follow up to Mason's Retreat combines richly drawn characters, impeccable historical details and a story that will stay with you.
Several of us felt that the book and story line could have been better with a little less detail about the farming.
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 5 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 6 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 8 months ago by richard dyas
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 8 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 9 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 10 months ago by Delphimo
Living on Maryland's Western or Left Handed Shore, I appreciate the contrast between our two cultures. Read morePublished 10 months ago by M. Gibson
A breathtaking, atmospheric novel about a family and their estate - a peach orchard on a small island on the Eastern Shore. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Joan Mora
A literary look at the history of Maryland from before the Civil War to just before World War II. Wonderful set pieces about Catholic society in Baltimore, peach crops on the... Read morePublished 11 months ago by K. Egan