Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Bradstreet Gate.
Bradstreet Gate is an impressive debut by an author with an acute sense of character that embraces both the idealistic years of academia and the realities of adult experience. The scene is set in 1977 on the elite Ivy League campus of Harvard.
Three pivotal protagonists--Georgia Calvin, Alice Kovac and Charlie Flournoy--are drawn into the world of a charismatic young professor, Rufus Storrow, who continues to leave his fingerprints on their lives more than a decade later.
Of the three underclassmen, Georgia is the golden girl, a reckless beauty who has learned to flee from difficulties, her divorced father a photographer of some reputation who has encouraged his daughter to approach life as an adventure. The natural beauty everyone notices remains aloof, uncommitted, yet accessible and warm, “a girl to which everything came easily.” In contrast, Charlie has left his blue-collar family behind for the future Harvard can provide. Out of his depth among the privileged, Charlie is that unique combination of seriousness and curiosity that allows an inexperienced young man to dream of girl like Georgia while firmly planting roots in academia, using this precious time to build the solid foundations of a career. Though lonely, Charlie understands the distance between life at Harvard and home is measured by more than miles, an opinionated and dismissive father affecting his relationship with his mother and older brother, Luke.
The daughter of Serbian immigrants, Alice Kovac is a bridge between Georgia and Charlie, a serpentine presence that eventually winds through both their lives long after graduation day. Unusually tall and imposing, the loss of her beloved father at a young age has informed Alice’s life perspective, shaping her body into an acceptable image
while her acerbic wit and incisive writing skills making her a force to be reckoned with. Alice and Georgia have just gotten to know each other when they stumble across Professor Storrow, a man of impeccable taste and precise habits, new to the campus but already attracting a following among those students that appreciate his methods. Charlie is particularly drawn to Storrow, his clarity and surefootedness impressing an ambitious young man
who even unconsciously copies the professor’s mannerisms. Alice, the silent but deadly provocateur yet to claim her potential, while conscious of Storrow’s effect on others, is intent upon nurturing her friendship with Georgia: “She understood so much better than most how to be agile and audacious and unencumbered by ambition or the weight of great affections.”
The angst and joy of life on campus falls into place as graduation approaches, but what should have been the culmination of their efforts is marred by a tragedy: the murder of a classmate, Julie Patel.
The students are stunned to learn that Professor Storrow is the prime suspect. Faced with private failures and post-Harvard illusions, they are further unsettled by Storrow’s predicament, his guilt or innocence impossible to know, a shadow hanging over a once-perfect future. Profoundly shaken, each for particular reasons, the three former classmates find it impossible to relegate Storrow to the past as they embark on the next phase of their lives. As the ten-year anniversary of Patel’s death approaches, Storrow remains an enigma, their former devotion embarrassing, lingering like a painful memory trying to intrude once more.
While each of these characters--Georgia, Charlie and Alice--are beautifully articulated, so well-drawn that each is an essential element of Bradstreet Gate, Rufus Storrow weaves a thread of threat throughout. The very traits that make the professor an intriguing and romantic figure to impressionable students are disturbing when fascination turns to distrust on the heels of doubt. Could this man be capable of murder? Each is forced to examine complicity in the myth, discomfort with his refusal to remain in the past. The anniversary breeds curiosity about the unsolved murder, but Alice understands the futility of such a quest: “Gossip for old vampires: nothing to bring rest for the living, nor justice for the dead.”
There is no need to compare Kirman to other writers of note. She is a remarkable talent with the ability to animate her characters, integrate them into a complicated plot, and leave the reader struggling with moral ambiguities and emotional fissures that define human behavior at its best and worst.