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York Ferry

Reviewed by Gardner McFall

With an epigraph from John Donne ("Love's mysteries in souls do grow"), Annie Dawid's first novel, set in a small town on Lake Champlain, addresses powerful subjects: the paradoxical presence of an absent father and the inscrutability of the human heart. "York Ferry" charts two decades following the day in June 1960 when Vernon Pinny, a World War II veteran and local garage mechanic, abandons his wife, Kay, and their five children. In the first of his letters to her, Vernon expresses confusion about his departure, alluding to the troubling memory of his first love, killed in Belgium during the war. On the grounds that he has always been a "good husband," Vernon asks Kay to wait for him. In the years that follow, his family, predictably enough, suffers as a result. "York Ferry" is written with an eye for landscape and the ability to render key dramatic moments vividly. Although the dialogue is occasionally stilted, and though Vernon's absence is problematic for the reader as well as his family (his letters explain some of his motives, but never make him come alive), Ms. Dawid's underlying message is true and appealing: rational explanations for
people's actions, especially concerning love, can often elude us.

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