A dark family drama plays out in a small coastal community in 1934 Providence, Rhode Island. Her powerful and politically connected father, Samuel Dodge, has given his daughter Anne all the benefits of his position in a region that has suffered through five years of economic depression and the problems of a society in flux - race, class, immigration, New Deal labor strikes and union-busting tactics brought to bear on the beleaguered workers. Hoping to open a functioning sawmill, Dodge courts investors, entrenched in a political point of view that sees leadership and firm management as essential ingredients for success. Used to bowing to the expectations of an autocratic father, a chink forms in that tight bond with the arrival of Anneís Portuguese half-sister, adolescent Maria Cristina.
Ever since her mother, Inez, abandoned husband and daughter when she was six, sheltered Anne has believed the myth of her motherís rejection as constructed by Dodge. But at twenty-four, Anne has begun to chafe at the restrictions on her future, especially marriage and her role as hostess of her fatherís formal events. Basking in Dodgeís notoriety, Anne has grown complacent, suddenly conscious of the real boundaries she has so graciously accepted. The arrival of orphaned Maria Cristina changes all that, the resemblance to their mother awakening long-dormant memories. As questions spill out about Inez and the past, Anne finds her fatherís answers no longer sufficient.
Three things contribute to a shattering climax: a crisis at the mill, Anneís love of Maria Cristina, and the murder of a young Portuguese man in the cove where Anne is handcrafting a boat with longtime mentor Ezra Johnson. A man of few words, Ezra knows much of her familyís troubled past, including the network of lies designed to keep Anne sheltered from her Portuguese heritage. With a coastal storm comes a violent confrontation, harsh words with her father, a foray into adult romance and tragedy, knowledge of the past and her motherís true motives purchased at a terrible cost.
Drew formulates her novel on solid historical details, but as a first effort, the flaws of inexperience burden the story with arcane and irrelevant information. Meant to define time and place, many details are superfluous, diluting what is really a tragic tale with selfishness, racial hubris and betrayal. Maria Cristina is a poignant lost child who delivers the seeds of doubt into the Dodge household, Samuel Dodge driving a wedge between himself and Anne, a problem entirely of his own making. I vacillated between frustration with Drewís inadequacies as a writer and the need to learn the familyís secrets as Anne confronts a life-changing betrayal and an identity long denied.