The mourner's bench : a novel

by Dodd, Susan M., 1946-

Format: Print Book 1998
Availability: Available at 2 Libraries 2 of 2 copies
Available (2)
Location Collection Call #
Penn Hills Library Fiction DOD
Location  Penn Hills Library
Collection  Fiction
Call Number  DOD
Springdale Free Public Library Fiction AF DODD
Location  Springdale Free Public Library
Collection  Fiction
Call Number  AF DODD
Thirty-year-old Leandra leads a solitary existence on an island in North Carolina, earning a modest living by fixing broken dolls. But her quiet, isolated life takes an unexpected turn when her sister's husband, Wim, appears, a man she has not seen for ten years, since their urgent love affair ended in tragedy. Wim, now dying of cancer, feels the need to see Leandra one last time.

In alternating, distinctly American voices -- one the twang of a New England Yankee, the other a gentle Southern drawl -- these two characters tell a wistful, wonderfully evoked story, from their first meeting, when Leandra was summoned to Boston to care for her pregnant, depressed sister, to the growing passion that led them beyond common sense and caution. As the narrative alternates between past and present, Leandra and Wim lay claim to the love they've denied themselves and each other.

With a sure sense of language and the kind of detail that rings with truth, Susan Dodd creates characters who will resonate in the reader's mind long after their tale reaches its inevitable end. Soft-spoken, sensitive, and deeply moving, The Mourners' Bench is literary fiction at its best, a powerfully eloquent novel of love, loss, regret, and rediscovery.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "This is a simple story, built around a complex of triangular relationships, of two lovers with very little time left to express what had only been in their hearts. After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Wim, a former teacher from Massachusetts, travels to North Carolina to be with Leandra, a 30-year-old folk artist who is more than 20 years his junior and the only woman he has ever loved--despite two marriages. For her part Leandra, too, has held fast to her love, rejecting a suitor who in his own right is a good man. The narrative duties are shared by Wim and Leandra, and their voices resonate not only with regional inflections but also with deeply personal emotions, for both must deal with the memory of Pamela, Wim's first wife and Leandra's older sister, whose suicide 10 years earlier, on the afternoon of Wim and Leandra's only tryst, placed the mark of Cain on their love. Against this backdrop of classic tragedy, Wim and Leandra sort out the greater and lesser triangles of their relationships as they wait for death to once again intervene in their love. --Frank Caso"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "In her previous work, Dodd's most successful characters have been people of simple backgrounds living obscure lives. She depicted even the eponymous protagonist of Mawmaw, the mother of the notorious James boys, as a strong and stoic backwoods matriarch. She sets most of this new novel near Dismal Swamp, N.C., the home of Leandra, a young woman who fixes broken dolls, which she lines up on a (highly symbolic) mourner's bench in her one-room shack. Juxtaposed to that provincial community is the sophisticated background of 54-year-old Wim Cantwell, a teacher at an elite Massachusetts prep school. Wim and Leandra haven't seen each other since a sexual tryst 10 years earlier, after which they discovered that Pammy Jo, Leandra's sister and Wim's wife, had committed suicide. Now Wim comes to Leandra's cabin to spend his last days before he succumbs to a brain tumor. Dodd recounts this doomed love story in the alternate voices of the soft-spoken Southern countrywoman and the buttoned-down Yankee, emphasizing the cultural contrasts between them in terms of language, weather, food, architecture and social customs. A third factor enters their relationship when Wim is befriended by Branch Goodlin, Leandra's former beau, who has never stopped loving her. Together, Leandra and Branch help Wim to die. The emotionally charged tone of this account, and the prevalence of such words as "poignant," "melancholy" and "sorrowful" deprive the narrative of any ironic distance. There are echoes of Reynolds Price in Leandra's folksy talk, and even Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome comes to mind in Leandra's former role of caretaker to her invalid sister. But Dodd works her material distinctively, and her message of salvation through the power of love is moving. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Teachers -- North Carolina -- Dismal Swamp -- Fiction.
Terminally ill -- North Carolina -- Dismal Swamp -- Fiction.
Brain -- Tumors -- North Carolina -- Dismal Swamp -- Fiction.
Dollmakers -- North Carolina -- Dismal Swamp -- Fiction.
Suicide -- North Carolina -- Dismal Swamp -- Fiction.
Dismal Swamp (N.C. and Va.) -- Fiction.
Publisher New York :William Morrow and Co.,1998
Edition 1st ed.
Language English
Description 270 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN 0688157998 (alk. paper)
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