Saturday, November 03, 2007

A New Light on 9/11- Helen Schulman's A Day at the Beach

Book Review

beach I have been a fan of Helen Schulman's writing for years, particularly her most recent novels, "The Revisionist" and "P.S." "A Day at the Beach" is another affirmation of her astounding skills as a novelist, particularly in the way she develops unique characters and heightens the plot in each progressing scene, not to mention her skills as a wordsmith. I would hate for anyone to call this another "9/11" novel, as the author embarks on new territory by revealing that day as it affects Gerhard, a former star dancer who recently lost his dance company, his wife Suzannah, a former dancer who has paid a high price for Gerhard's "transgressions," and their autistic son Nikolai, who presents his own challenges. Fleeing New York on that terrible day, the family drives to the Hamptons to escape, only to find different kinds of challenges as the people they run into force them to confont the truth about their own lives. The novel is packed with emotions, and you really feel like you are in the room with these characters. There are incredible descriptions of food, the ocean, the horrible day as it unfolded in news briefs, and the dynamics of a marriage in trouble.

My only critique is that the second half of the book is a bit rushed - we are only getting to know the secondary characters who suddenly have a huge impact on the central drama, and the chance reunions on both the husband and wife's side are a bit too much of a coincidence. Otherwise, I highly recommend this terrific novel and all of Helen's other books.

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