The Sunday Salon-Testimony

I’ve just come out onto my back porch to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and the remaining half of a pecan danish I saved from yesterday morning at the cafe.  I pick up my book, and begin to read where I left off  during lunch.

Within a few minutes, I’ve had to set my coffee cup and danish aside, for the events I’m reading are building into a crescendo of tragedy which has completely stopped my appetite.

Testimony, Anita Shreve’s lastest novel, is the story of one cataclysmic event which occurs at Avery Academy, a boarding school in Vermont.   It involves three young men, a very young woman, drinking, and sex.   Shreve tells the tale through the varied and alternating voices ~the “testimony” if you will~ of all the parties involved…students, parents, law officers, townspeople.   It is at once captivating and heartbreaking, as the reader gets sucked into this vortex of human frailty and failure. 

All of which has led me to this moment in the book, a moment I did not see coming, really, although I suppose I should have done.  I’ve  read enough of Shreve’s novels to know there is rarely a happy ending.   And, in all honesty, I’ve never been a huge fan of her work.   But  Testimony  is clearly my favorite of her novels to date, despite the magnitude of sorrow it has evoked in my heart.

Literature has illuminated this theme to me before, and having lived more than half a century on earth, I have seen it happen in real life more than I care to admit.  One moment, one wrong decision sets off a domino effect with consequences far reaching and everlasting.  It happens in life and in art, and can be equally hard to stomach in both.

My coffee’s gone cold, my danish now stale…but having recovered somewhat I will press on until the end, hoping for some glimmer of redemption in the Testimony  to come.


12 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon-Testimony

  1. I know just how you feel today. I am reading The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, and it has completely surprised me in that I do not typically like dystopian lit and that it keeps taking me to unexpected places. My family wonders when I might move off the sofa. Happy reading!

  2. This is going to be my ‘airplane book’ next month. It sounds like it will make the flight pass quickly! I’ve read several of Shreve’s books and, while I’m not a huge fan either, have enjoyed most of them. Fortune’s Rocks is probably my favorite.

  3. I also recently finished reading this book. It was the first book by Anita Shreve that I have ever read. It really reinforced for me the concept that sometimes our actions do have unanticipated and unforeseen consequences. Makes you think twice about things. A good read!

  4. Wonderful review Becca! I haven’t had much luck with Anita Shreve’s novels, well the couple that I’ve read. I feel like these are books I really would enjoy but somehow never connect. I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed Testimony though – I’ve got it and am looking forward to giving her another try!

  5. I haven’t read this one. And while I was not a fan of Pilot’s Wife, I went on to read several others and above all, enjoy her northeast locales and time periods. Is this one something like “Atonement”, I wonder? Little matter. I will have to check it out. Yup, I’m a fan.

  6. I’ve only read Fortune’s Rocks and The Pilot’s Wife. My mom enjoyed Light on Snow but I never got around to reading that one. Testimony definitely sounds interesting and thought provoking!

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