Synopses & Reviews
Toby Maytree first sees Lou Bigelow on her bicycle in postwar Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her laughter and loveliness catch his breath. Maytree is a Provincetown native, an educated poet of thirty. As he courts Lou, just out of college, her stillness draws him. Hands-off, he hides his serious wooing, and idly shows her his poems.
In spare, elegant prose, Dillard traces the Maytrees' decades of loving and longing. They live cheaply among the nonconformist artists and writers that the bare tip of Cape Cod attracts. Lou takes up painting. When their son Petie appears, their innocent Bohemian friend Deary helps care for him. But years later it is Deary who causes the town to talk.
In this moving novel, Dillard intimately depicts nature's vastness and nearness. She presents willed bonds of loyalty, friendship, and abiding love. Warm and hopeful, The Maytrees is the surprising capstone of Annie Dillard's original body of work.
"Lou Bigelow meets her husband-to-be, Toby Maytree, when Toby returns to Provincetown following WWII. In the house Lou inherits from her mother, they read, cook soup, play games with friends, vote and raise a child. Toby writes poetry and does odd jobs; Lou paints. Their unaffected bohemianism fits right in with the Provincetown landscape, which Dillard, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, describes with an offhand but deep historical sense. Years into the marriage, Toby suddenly decamps to Maine with another local woman, Deary Hightoe; flash forward six years to Lou reading Toby's semimonthly letters (and Deary's marginal notes) 'with affectionate interest.' Dillard, stripping the story to bare facts-plus-backdrop, is after something beyond character and beyond love, though she evokes Lou and Toby's beautifully. Thus, when Deary's heart falters 20 years later and Toby brings her home to Lou for hospice care, Lou puts up water for tea and gets going. She feels too much, not too little, for mere drama, although people who don't know her misread her. In short, simple sentences, Dillard calls on her erudition as a naturalist and her grace as poet to create an enthralling story of marriage particular and universal, larky and monumental. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The poetic language, close observations of nature, and moving, family-centered theme in this short, low-key novel should appeal to a wide readership." Library Journal
"The compact, elliptical narrative will continue to pervade thereader's consciousness long after the novel ends." Kirkus Reviews
"Dillard wryly questions notions of love, exalts in life's metamorphoses, and celebrates goodness. As she casts a spell sensuous and metaphysical, Dillard covertly bids us to emulate may trees...the tree of joy, of spring, of the heart." Booklist
"There are a few problems with The Maytrees, most of which hinge on plot movements....But the plot quibbles seem insignificant in the face of so much grace." Christian Science Monitor
"The novel, like the tree, can prove vexatious but the reading of it contains its own balm." Miami Herald
In this beautiful, powerfully moving novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dillard displays penetrating insight into the human condition. Evocative, engrossing, and profound, this is a remarkable story about the unknowable, unbreakable bonds of love and family.
About the Author
Annie Dillard has written eleven books, including the memoir of her parents, An American Childhood; the Northwest pioneer epic The Living; and the nonfiction narrative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. A gregarious recluse, she is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.