The author of Endless Love and Waking the Dead (both of which were made into major motion pictures), Scott Spencer has been called a novelist who knows the human heart better than any other. This description was enough to make me excited to read Spencerís newest novel, National Book Award finalist A Ship Made of Paper.
A Ship Made of Paper is the story of Daniel Emerson, a high-powered New York City lawyer who has moved back to his small hometown after experiencing violence at the hands of one of his (black) clients. Daniel has not come alone. He has brought with him his longtime girlfriend, Kate, and her young daughter, Ruby. After setting up a small practice, Daniel tries to become closer to his closed-off parents and settle into small town life. However, everything changes when he meets Iris Davenport, the mother of Rubyís new best friend, Daniel. Unfortunately, Iris is not only married, but she is also black, further confusing Daniel since he has been afraid of black people ever since the episode in New York.
Without being able to help himself, Daniel falls hopelessly in love with Iris and pursues her relentlessly with little thought to all of the lives that might be ruined by his actions. Iris, a desperately lonely woman who has been neglected by her husband, finally returns his affections and the couple embark on an affair that will eventually tear both of them apart.
Although there is a decent plot here, A Ship Made of Paperís success relies on the reader connecting with the characters. Unfortunately, none of the characters are extremely likable (not even the two children), and itís difficult to relate to the self-destructive way most of them act. Even though this is a quick read with an engaging plot, the characters turn it into little more than a cautionary tale of adultery (especially interracial adultery), and a depressing one at that.