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A ship made of paper : a novel
Scott Spencer
Adult Fiction SPENCER

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Spencer's latest novel should cement his reputation as the contemporary American master of the love story. Daniel Emerson is a New York City lawyer who has returned to his hometown of Leyden, N.Y., a picturesque Hudson Valley village, with his girlfriend Kate, a novelist, and her daughter, Ruby. Kate drinks and obsesses about the O.J. Simpson trial instead of writing fiction. Daniel finds himself falling in love with Iris Davenport, an African-American grad student at the local university. Iris is married to Hampton Welles, an investment adviser. The book records Iris and Daniel's affair from both perspectives and poses the question, is their fleeting happiness really worth so much ruin? For ruin there is a-plenty: Daniel thoroughly humiliates Kate, destroys his financial status, becomes a subject of gossip in the village and inadvertently mauls Hampton in an accident with a roman candle, making it almost impossible for Iris to leave him. Spencer is an unerring writer. He describes the two couples at a local concert: "From time to time, Kate must glance at Daniel. His eyes are closed, but she's sure he's awake. Hampton takes Iris's hand, brings it to his lips, while she stares intently ahead. And then, Kate sees Daniel glancing at Iris. Their eyes meet for a moment, but it has the impact of cymbals crashing. It is a shocking, agitating thing to see. It's like being in a store with someone and watching them steal something." Kate's violated sense of order is captured in perfectly chosen metaphors. This book, in which matters of sex and race are treated with unusual frankness, could well be both the critical and commercial surprise of this spring season. (Mar.) FYI: PW will run an interview with Spencer in March. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Daniel Paris returns to his hometown with his partner and stepdaughter to escape big-city life. Once there, he begins an affair with a married African American woman whom he meets when dropping his stepdaughter off at daycare. What starts as soulful attraction turns into sexual addiction, and Daniel throws himself into the affair while throwing away everything else in his life. The interracial aspect allows Spencer, author of seven critically acclaimed novels (e.g., Endless Love), to explore both subtle and overt forms of racism among liberals and conservatives and the heavy burden of living with a consciousness of race and the responsibility of setting an unimpeachable example. He contrasts this to the mostly unacknowledged luxury of being white and representing only oneself to society. The novel is a page-turner, with crises scattered throughout, but it is also peopled with well-developed characters who live in a carefully depicted rural college town. Exhausting in its intensity, this well-written novel is recommended for public libraries.-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs. Grinnell, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Daniel Emerson
Male
Age: 36
Made his reputation and fortune in Manhattan before returning to his hometown.
Lawyer

Kate Ellis
Female
Single mother
Daniel's girlfriend; drinker; obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial.
Writer

Iris Davenport
Female
African American
Hampton's wife.
Graduate student

Hampton Welles
Male
African American
Iris' husband.
Investment adviser



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