This is the story of several families living in Wellbridge, a very small town on the wild coast of Maine, that takes place over a 100-year period. Each chapter begins with a genealogical chart of the characters who are about to be portrayed. On top of that chart is the year in which that chapter takes place. These clues are really important for threading all the pieces together. The book begins in 1977, but then jumps back to 1904 and continues chronologically from there to 2017. Life is hard. The weather is hard. The people are hard. There are devastating secrets. There are reprisals and betrayals. Each chapter is a thin slice of life—a deep dive into the microcosm with the end result being an overview of the macrocosm: one night of a mother’s hallucinatory grief over her son, a dinner party, a phone conversation between two sisters, a funeral (which is really quite funny), a death that is told from the point of view of the one who is dying, two days in the life of a woman trying to heal after divorce ended her 30-year marriage. All of these stories ring true and real, and each one is imminently engrossing to read.
This novel is fierce, intelligent and emotionally resonant with vivid characters that are so real they seemingly pop off the page. “The Northern Reach” is serious literary fiction at its finest.