Annie, Mason and Jake live in a complicated web of relationships part erotic, part platonic, always in flux, always filled with excitement, passion, desire, envy and rage.
Annie is a collage artist who expresses, in her art, all the layers of feeling that have invaded the lives of these three human beings. Ursula Hegi has used as her literary device a similar collage to tell her tale: a series of overlays and soliloquies and narratives in the third person to give shape to the story. It is a complicated and twisted tale: the day of Annie’s wedding to Mason is also the day on which her mother and father are killed in a car crash but the baby to have been born is saved. Annie and Mason take on the infant and raise her as their own thus making Annie both mother and sister of Opal. Their friendship with Jake gives rise to a family of three adults and one baby, soon to grow into a girl.
There is a very dark side to this tale of love and morality, of entanglements and acceptance that brings out some of Hegi’s concerns from her own past with guilt: the guilt of a German woman who was raised in the U S at a time when Germans were seen only as the enemy and being German required an explanation. German, but not Jewish. Guilt suffuses this novel; creeps into many corners, suffuses the lives of the three protagonists and affects little Opal in her every day attempt to come to grips with the world of the grown ups.
The book is troubling and interesting; it reads well. The language to describe the beauty and the mystery of nature is wonderful, precise and evocative of the sea where so much of the action is placed. The following quote is more illustrative of what I have been trying to say than I could ever say myself:
"This twine is thinner than in the earlier versions, and she lays it in an open weave on top of marbelized paper from Italy, all blues and whites, torn into thin shreds that overlap, rising and pushing like choppy waves, making the raft unstable. And on the raft, a momentary sculpture of limbs, dark silhouettes against a low afternoon sun. In motion."
That’s what she works toward. In motion. Or just before motion. When the impact of motion still resonates.