Modern Lit: Rescue, by Anita Shreve


Anita Shreve specializes in novels about families under pressure. Themes of love and loss, momentary incidents that change lives forever, and broken promises thread through all her novels, and Rescue is no exception. Peter Webster is a helper, a man who is driven to rescue others, and what better occupation for that than EMT? As a young man, he falls in love with the victim of a car accident, and while he and Sheila could not be more different, they marry and have a child, a daughter named Rowan. Peter is the salt of the earth, and Sheila a somewhat reckless party girl, and their marriage lasts no longer than would be expected, leaving him to bring up Rowan as a single father. Seventeen years later, Rowan is no longer Peter’s innocent little girl, and he seeks out Sheila, wondering if she might be able to help their daughter see the error of her ways.

Rescue contains plenty of information about the life of EMTs, but remove all the accident scenes, and there’s little left beyond the simple plot described above. As a story, it’s interesting enough, but lacks the tension that drives most of Shreve’s previous work. Strong on character, weak on plot, this is a novel for readers interested in relationships rather than action. To check out what this author can really do, read The Pilot’s Wife.

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