Saturday, February 19, 2011
Leaving Rock Harbor, by Rebecca Chace
Life is a choice. It is filled with decisions about how we live and, even, the decision to live. The characters in Rebecca Chace's sweet Leaving Rock Harbor rarely forget that the choice to live is in their hands, for death haunts them closely. The story takes place in the first decades of the twentieth century, when young Frances Ross, or Frankie as she prefers to be known, grows up. We meet Frankie when she is an insecure but charming 14-year-old and she meets the two young men who will come to define her life.
Joe Barros is the son of Portuguese immigrants, a marginalized community in New England Rock Harbor, but thanks to his winning smile and basketball skills, he manages to rise above the racism. Winston Curtis is the youngest son of the richest family in Rock Harbor, but his easy grace and lighthearted attitude make it easy for those around him to forget that is father runs the town. Frankie falls in with Joe and Winston, at first hesitantly in her tight-laced corset, but then with more and more abandon, as her friendship with the two young men parallels the changing social mores of the era.
The war and the subsequent labor disputes threaten Frankie and all those she loves, and the choices each of them makes ricochet amongst the tight group of family and friends. Rebecca Chace writes with a confident hand and Frankie is an interesting, complicated woman. The historical setting here is drawn with a light touch, so those looking for a richly atmospheric piece on WWI and the Depression are likely to be disappointed. But readers seeking a compelling story about memorable characters will enjoy Leaving Rock Harbor.