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.