The End of the Point
If the author’s intent was to write a literary novel with its skim-the-surface type of nuances, she succeeded. She presents us with the Porter family, who summer in the fictional town of Ashaunt, Massachusetts, and rarely leave that setting. The family includes the children’s caregivers, who are Scottish, and we leave the Point to visit Scotland with them as a rare reprieve from Ashaunt. Other than that, the setting remains the same as the author focuses her story on her characters and their personal struggles: Bea, the caregiver who has no life outside the family she cares for; Helen, the precocious elder child; and later Charlie, Helen’s son, who suffers from depression and drug dependence. The eras evoke significance, beginning in the 1940s with the war effort that is evident from the front porch of their summer escape. Later wars and the Sixties also lend their backgrounds as reasons for the characters’ eccentricities.
The prose reads fluidly, but once readers get comfortable with the characters and the heavily foreshadowed plot, as told in the third person, the events seem to stand still. In the last third of the novel, there is a lull as the author focuses on characterization in observant detail. One sentence will describe a character’s thoughts and offhandedly mention that years later, such and such happened. This constant peek into the future ruined whatever curiosity I had about what would happen to the characters. The novel portrays life at Ashaunt through the eyes of passing generations, depicting the grim reality of persistent misunderstandings as well as their enduring constancy. Though the novel lacks the emotional impact I would have preferred, I did appreciate Graver’s descriptive style.