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The Last Days of Dogtownby Anita Diamant
Synopses & Reviews
A magnificent storyteller with vast imaginative range, Anita Diamant gave voice to the silent women of the Old Testament in The Red Tent. Now, in her third novel, she brings to vivid life an early New England world that history has forgotten.
Set on Cape Ann in the early 1800s, The Last Days of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and witches. Nearly a decade ago, Diamant found an account of an abandoned rural backwater near the Massachusetts coastline at the turn of the nineteenth century. That pamphlet inspired a stunning novel about a small group of eccentrics and misfits, struggling in a harsh, isolated landscape only fifty miles north of Boston, yet a world away.
Among the inhabitants of Dogtown are Black Ruth, an African woman who dresses as a man and works as a stone mason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her rural brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of a very strange aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave whose race denies him everything. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself and inspires those around her to become more generous and tolerant themselves.
This is a story of hardship and resilience — and an extraordinary re-creation of an untold chapter of early American life. With a keen ear for language and profound compassion for her characters, Diamant has written her most moving and powerful novel.
Fans of Diamant's The Red Tent who were disappointed by her sophomore effort (Good Harbor) will be happy to find her back on historical turf in her latest, set in early 1800s Massachusetts. Inspired by the settlement of Dogtown, Diamant reimagines the community of castoffs — widows, prostitutes, orphans, African-Americans and ne'er-do-wells — all eking out a harsh living in the barren terrain of Cape Ann. Black Ruth, the African woman who dresses like a man and works as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, who runs the local brothel, and Judy Rhines, an unmarried white woman whose lover Cornelius is a freed slave, are among Dogtown's inhabitants who are considered suspect-even witches-by outsiders. Shifting perspectives among the various residents (including the settlement's dogs, who provide comfort to the lonely), Diamant brings the period alive with domestic details and movingly evokes the surprising bonds the outcasts form in their dying days. This chronicle of a dwindling community strikes a consistently melancholy tone-readers in search of happy endings won't find any here-but Diamant renders these forgotten lives with imagination and sensitivity. Agent, Amanda Urban." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Basing this novel loosely in fact, Diamant adeptly manages to evoke the minutiae of everyday living in an all but forgotten place and time in history." Booklist
"Diamant has a gift for storytelling and breathes life into this dying town and its eccentric inhabitants." Library Journal
"Both Judy and the haunted New England landscape evoke something of the world of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and his Hester Prynne, who also defies convention by following her own passion." Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Four Spirits
"A deeply satisfying novel, populated by people we care about, delineated in spare, elegant prose....Moving, absorbing and engaging." Kirkus Reviews
"The book has a compelling, page-turning pull...with spare yet vividly descriptive prose." Boston Globe
"[Diamant's] theme — that life teems even as it dwindles — has all the more power for its subtle, unsentimental articulation." The Washington Post
Set on the high ground at the heart of Cape Ann, the village of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and "witches." Among the inhabitants of this hamlet are Black Ruth, who dresses as a man and works as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself against all imaginable odds. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; Rendered in stunning, haunting detail, with Diamant's keen ear for language and profound compassion for her characters, andlt;iandgt;The Last Days of Dogtownandlt;/iandgt; is an extraordinary retelling of a long-forgotten chapter of early American life.
About the Author
Anita Diamant is the bestselling author of the novels The Red Tent, Good Harbor, and The Last Days of Dogtown, as well as the collection of essays, Pitching My Tent. An award-winning journalist whose work has appeared regularly in The Boston Globe Magazine and Parenting,
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