By Elizabeth Marshall
Anne Rivers Siddons is the queen of the summer beach book. Her latest offering, Off Season, is all that and a lot more. Author Stephen King touts this book by saying, “This is Siddons’ best, and maybe the book she was born to write.”
Anne Siddons delves deeply into the human psyche as the novel’s main character explores the themes of catastrophic loss of a best friend, a deeply loving and fulfilling life-long marriage, the necessity of reevaluating that marriage, children, and the machinations of a female peer who derives great pleasure by creating havoc and deep pain for others.
Written in marvelously descriptive, poetic language, Off Season is a story “about the simple truths that elude us, even when they are right in front of our eyes.”
In reference to the death of a friend, the novel’s main character, Lilly, describes her reaction. “It was just after dark when my father came into the living room…he did not speak. He did not have to.” When he did speak, “I heard nothing. Nothing but the terrible ripping sound as the fabric of the world was rent, and the cold, windy sucking of the infinite black void beyond it, where everything vanished: the moon and the sun and the cold music of the stars and the wings of children, the warmth of fires and the shapes of islands and the swift, darting white bellies of ospreys, and the soft curl of the feather, and the taste of summer strawberries and the smell of wood smoke and the breathing of the sea…Gone.”
She herself survives the tragedy by isolating from the world in a metaphorical bubble she calls a “helmet.” In this poignant yet strangely charming way and by years of swimming competitively as an underwater swimmer, her spirit prevails.
The paperback version of the book is 358 pages, and the reader could have followed these well-defined characters for another 358 pages. However, the author compressed the ending rapidly, which is my only problem with the book–it is too compressed, and I wanted more.
In the Question and Answer section at the end of the novel, Anne Siddons talks about the book’s shocking ending. I suggest that a new reader not read the Q&A before completing the novel as it may spoil the story.
Anne Rivers Siddons is the author of 16 New York Times bestselling novels. Much of her writing life was spent in Atlanta, Georgia. Currently she and her husband live in the Low Country of South Carolina and in Maine.