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Testimony by Anita Shreve, Part Deux

I reviewed Testimony by Anita Shreve back in October 2008 when the book debuted; you can read my review here. My mom is always looking for a new book to read, so I shipped my copy up to Massachusetts for her to read.

She’s here today to share her thoughts on the book with you. Welcome, my mom, Pat:

At Avery Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school located in Vermont, the headmaster, Mike Bordwin, finds in his possession a video tape–a disaster in a small package waiting to stir up trouble for the students at the academy. The sexual acts displayed on the tape involve four older students–juniors and seniors–and a freshman girl. The headmaster also engages in illicit activity following the incident and its fallout.

The events are set in motion, and Shreve uses testimony from all the students involved in the incident, the headmaster, and numerous other characters to tell her tale. These stories are woven together to show how this one incident impacts all the students involved as well as others in the book. Additionally, readers will get a glimpse into what happens in the lives of these students after the scandal breaks.

I give this book 4.5 stars and declare it is a must read.

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve, which will be released on Oct. 21, was such a surprise in my mailbox from Hachette Group’s Miriam Parker. Thanks, Miriam! I met Anita Shreve at the 2002 National Book Festival signing in Washington, D.C. I’ve been in love with her writing since I first read The Pilot’s Wife many years before that, and I will admit here that I’ve tried to emulate her style in my own writing, though my writing has not met muster.

Testimony is one of those novels that slowly draws you into a prep school known as Avery Academy in Vermont where four boys and one girl make a decision that will change their lives and the lives of other students, teachers, administrators, families, and neighbors for years to come. Testimony is given throughout the novel from a number of characters–minor and major characters–illustrating the depth to which decisions of one or several people can impact others who are seemingly unconnected to the decision-makers. Jacqueline Barnard, a researcher from the University of Vermont, receives the interviews either in written form or through personal encounters with several of the characters.

The videotape that surfaces in Avery Academy Headmaster Mike Bordwin’s office is central to the story that unfolds in the novel, but another decision among a pair of adults also impacts the students and others in the town. Shreve is a master of character development and setting. I was drawn into the bitter cold winter snow of Vermont and the coziness of the town and the school, as well as the dark undercurrents in each of these characters’ lives. Shreve is adept at highlighting the nuances of how underage sex and drinking affects the students, the faculty, and others, while not preaching to the reader.

Silas and Noelle, two of the main adolescents in the novel, share a deep connection to one another at a tender age. It was tough to watch how this connection was tested and ultimately severed. Silas and his mother, Anna, also have a tight bond and naturally this connection is tested. Another adolescent boy, J. Dot and his bravado, serves as a foil to Silas’ hard-working, compassionate, and dutiful persona. Noelle is the naive and romantic girl-next-door, while Sienna is the wild girl looking for trouble even if it is on a subconscious level.

As always, Shreve has outdone herself in this novel, weaving a series of disjointed testimonies into a coherent and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, responsibility, and adolescence. I’ve often wondered if Shreve has ever tried her hand at poetry because the language she creates on the page paints a vivid image, and those images often conjure deeper meanings and emotions for the reader.

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