Monday, March 15, 2010

"The Heights" by Peter Hedges

It's amazing how quickly things can change, and how one random occurrence can have a ripple effect that touches many things in your life. For Tim and Kate Welch, a married couple living in Brooklyn Heights with their two young children, things seem fairly typical—Tim has a successful teaching career at a private school while he dreams of someday finishing his doctoral dissertation, and Kate is raising the children, immersing herself in their lives. And then into their lives comes Anna Brody, the mysterious and beautiful new neighbor whose arrival throws the entire neighborhood—as well as Tim and Kate—into a tailspin.

The Heights is Peter Hedges' first novel in 12 years, and it comes 19 years after he wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Although the book treads on familiar territory—struggling within the confines of marriage and child-rearing, temptation, fear of becoming one's parents, life under the social microscope—Hedges unfolds the story so it seems almost unique. While I read this book very quickly, I found myself getting heavily invested in the characters (although I didn't always like them) and I worried about what trouble they might find themselves in. This story didn't seem too outlandish; it seemed as if it could happen to any couple you might know.

The emotions Hedges imbues his characters with feel authentic. I definitely could see this book adapted into a film slightly less dysfunctional than Little Children, but I didn't feel anything was too pat, or too predictable. This is a well-written book that may not break new ground, but the story it tells is a compelling one. Well done!

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