A young woman primed to enter adulthood. An older man, distinguished thinker, father of four, married to a woman who is his complete equal. A summer in New Hampshire at the turn of the last century changes both of their lives, when Olympia Biddeford, the only child of a prominent Boston couple, and John Haskell, a married man, a father, nearly three times her age, throw themselves somewhat recklessly into a hopelessly passionate but ultimately heartbreaking affair. With no concern for propriety and self-preservation, Olympia plunges forward with cataclysmic results --- the price of straying in an unforgiving era. Olympia is cast out of the world she knows. FORTUNE'S ROCKS tells the story of her determination to reinvent her broken life --- and take back the love she finds she cannot live without.
Reading this book reveals that in the past 100 years, there are a few things that have not changed, like truth, desire, and the inexplicable consequences of both. The fact that the story takes place at the beginning of the last century, with its religious zealots and dim hopes for the future gives it an even greater resonance for contemporary readers. FORTUNE'S ROCKS is a beautifully, gently written novel with all the trimmings of both a coming-of-age story as well as the passionate yet complicated comminglings one finds in the work of Edith Wharton. The thing I like most about the character of Olympia is that she trusts her own heart, regardless of the consequences, and knows that the gentile place from which she has grown is not the best arena for real growth. By accepting the pain of her decisions, she is a truly independent young woman.
As a study of the secret erotic lives of all women as well as an exploration of class prejudices, and the growing pains and actions of a remarkably forthright and adventurous young lady who is ahead of her time, FORTUNE'S ROCKS is a masterpiece of narrative drama, beautifully written by one of the most accomplished novelists of our time.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011