three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-The MaytreesAspiring poet Toby Maytree returns from World War II to Provincetown, where he meets statuesque Lou Bigelow, a painter and avid reader. It’s love at first sight for Toby, and he woos—and eventually wins—the quiet, unassuming girl. The bohemian Maytrees lead an idyllic life in an artists’ colony on the shores of Cape Cod until Toby unexpectedly runs away with Lou’s best friend, Deary. Shocked, Lou refuses to let jealousy and anger overwhelm her. Instead, she draws on her inner strength to forge a new life for herself and their son—until, many years later, fate brings Lou, Toby, and Deary back together again.
HarperCollins. 224 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0061239534

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"The word ‘philosophical’ may not be universally understood as praise, so let me add at once that she also creates rich, opinionated characters and moments of real suspense; the reader is amply rewarded for the concentration it requires to enter Dillard’s world. … Dillard is expert at conveying the possible surprises of emotion—the degree to which the self is always terra incognita—and of how people change over time, or don’t." Margot Livesey

NO Times-Picayune 4 of 5 Stars
"Dillard’s lush, perfect prose paints a winning portrait of these artistic, opinionated, strong-willed characters who love books, love words, embrace life. What lovely, loving people these are!" Susan Larson

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"The Maytrees has elegant, evocative language. … Dillard writes so beautifully about the ocean, the clouds, the stars, the bogs and the sand that the landscape becomes the most memorable character of this novel." Deirdre Donahue

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There are a few problems with The Maytrees, most of which hinge on plot movements. … But the plot quibbles seem insignificant in the face of so much grace." Yvonne Zipp

Atlanta Jrnl-Constitution 3 of 5 Stars
"Dillard’s writing can be as fine as the constellations in a clear night sky. But there is a lack of focus at the heart of this frustrating, occasionally gorgeous, book." Diane Roberts

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Anger, acceptance, forgiveness and love pulse through the narrative as forcefully as the tides. … As much as The Maytrees is about the Maytrees, it is also about language—language that is sometimes obtrusively showy, sometimes lyrically enthralling." Richard Wakefield

Richmond Times-Dispatch 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The Maytrees … exemplifies all her signature virtues—lyrical prose, descriptions of nature and insights into the human condition. But in a novel, these virtues also need the support of a compelling plot and credible characters, and here Dillard falters." Judith Chettle

Critical Summary

Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1975) meditates on the mysteries of marriage and the nature of forgiveness in her second novel. Critics generally praised her erudite, lyrical prose; evocative descriptions of Cape Cod’s landscape; and perceptive analyses of individuals and relationships. A few, however, voiced complaints: some character traits aren’t believable (for example, Lou and Toby never quarrel); other plot points aren’t realistic (Deary suddenly transforms herself from a nomadic beachcomber into a savvy businesswoman); and a few of Dillard’s metaphors are clumsy and confusing. However, Dillard’s aim—and primary success—is plumbing the depths of love, asking piercing questions, and making profound connections.

Also by the Author

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1975): Award Star Pulitzer Prize. In this thought-provoking, inspiring work, Annie Dillard records her observations on nature and life while living beside Tinker Creek in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.