So last night I finished Annie Dillard‘s novel The Maytrees. It had been a reading challenge for me because it starts off with a beautiful love story that then turns tragic (I won’t say more so as not to spoil your own reading). So the theme/plot was difficult, personally, for me.
But it was also a challenging read because, as Dillard is known to do, she wrote prose that is dense, twisting, and replete with specific natural images that I can’t always identify. Take, for example, the reference to verblasteder turtle – which, incidentally, I still can’t identify (is it a turtle or a metaphor?) since the faithful internet calls up no hits for the word “verbalsteder.” Here may be a case of the specific not breeding familiarity.

All the challenges aside, I really did love this novel. The plot is subtle and local – set in a small beach community, a native beach community that resides there year round. The language is gorgeous, wending its way around a subject so as to enwrap it rather than embue it with meaning. The characters are real, and mostly likeable. And the larger questions – about life and meaning, purpose, relationship – are woven into the story, not with subtlely but with genuineness. So all in all, I recommend this book, although I would plan to read it this winter, when you have long hours of quiet darkness to keep you from being distracted by the wilder things of life.

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
Cover of Annie Dillard's The Maytrees