Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rescue by Anita Shreve

Resue by Anita Shreve
2010, Little Brown and Company
304 pages, hardcover

Summary: A rookie paramedic pulls a young woman alive from her totaled car, a first rescue that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma—streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes, fierce desires, and a never-look-back determination. Peter Webster, as straight an arrow as they come, falls for her instantly and entirely. Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair, married, and parents to a baby daughter. Like the crash that brought them together, it all happened so fast.

Can you ever really save another person? Eighteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone. But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. His work shows him daily every danger the world contains, how wrong everything can go in a second. All the love a father can give a daughter is suddenly not enough.

Sheila's sudden return may be a godsend—or it may be exactly the wrong moment for a lifetime of questions and anger and longing to surface anew. What tore a young family apart? Is there even worse damage ahead? The questions lifted up in Anita Shreve's utterly enthralling new novel are deep and lasting, and this is a novel that could only have been written by a master of the human heart. (From

My Thoughts: When I heard that Anita Shreve had a new novel coming out, I was anxious to see what it would be like. I usually enjoy Shreve's work, with Testimony being my favorite of her books (actually, one of my favorite books ever), but there are some of her books where 20 pages in, I close the book, totally disinterested and feeling no connection to the characters. Let me say, Rescue falls into the former category, where I was wrapped up in the story and did not want to stop reading.

We meet Webster, the main character in this story, an EMT in a small Vermont town and his daughter, Rowan, in the first chapter. You immediately feel the tension between the two, feel Webster's pain as a parent who doesn't know what to do or say to his teenage daughter. Shreve gives you this sneek peek into the present day before plunging you back 18 years, taking you back in time to when Webster was a young man, ambivalent about his future and thinking that being an EMT might be an exciting career. It's through his work that he meets a young woman, Shelia. Webster rescues Shelia from an accident and is drawn to her, wanting to get to know more about her.

We see Webster falling for the young woman, who, even with all her apparent flaws, you are rooting for her, wanting for her to get her life turned around, to start a life with Webster, the all-around good guy. Webster falls in love with her and when she tells him that she is pregnant, he is instantly aware how his actions will not only impact him, but her and their child. They get a place of their own, get married, and then give birth to their baby girl, Rowan. Things are rough, and Webster starts to see Shelia's faults. Her alcoholism becomes more and more apparent, and everything comes to a head when Shelia gets behind the wheel drunk, with Rowan in the back seat. She gets into a car accident, nearly killing Rowan. Webster decides that in order to rescue all of them, Shelia needs to leave. He tells her to never come back, gives her money and a car, and she disappers.

Fast forward 15 years, Webster still a single parent, Rowan now a senior in high school. Webster sees some of Shelia in Rowan, causing him to worry about what will happen to his daughter in the future. A horrible accident brings Shelia back into their lives, but this time, it seems to be Shelia who is doing the rescuing.

Shreve is a masterful writer, with chapters flowing by and the characters, plot, and setting developing in due course. She never rushes anything, but the book does not drag. Shreve presents you with wonderful characters, who develop throughout the book and grow as the story progresses. If I had any complaint for the book, it would be about Rowan. I wish we had a bit more insight into Rowan's life and choices, but the story is not hurt without the information.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


  1. Lovely review. I have only read Testimony and loved it, have been trying to get recommendations to read more of hers. What others have you really enjoyed?

  2. Marce - I have read A Wedding in December and The Last Time They Met. Both were great, and I tried to read The Pilot's Wfe once but couldn't get through it ... I don't know if it was all the hype or what, but I just couldn't get into it.

  3. Great review, thanks! I have had this book for a couple months and been wanting to get to it. For some reason I always pick up something else. Now I am motivated.