Anita Diament's recent best seller, THE RED TENT, established her as a writer who can weave intriguing, intimate tales surrounding women's relationships. Based on characters from the book of Genesis, THE RED TENT brought to life customs and plumbed emotions of women in a sheltered, rigid society. GOOD HARBOR is as modern as RED TENT is historical, but Diamant's story telling skills continue to resonate with the warmth and truth that lies in the sometimes complex relationships between women.
Kathleen Levine is a dignified librarian in her late 50s, who lives in Cape Anne, Massachusetts with her husband of many years. Her life has been turned upside down upon learning that she has breast cancer. Joyce Tabachnik is nearly 20 years younger and, with the proceeds from her first published novel --- a romance under a pen name she refuses to divulge even to her local book club --- she has purchased a cottage on Cape Ann. She sees the small rundown former rental as her own private writer's colony from which she will take long hikes on the dunes, write five pages a day and publish a "real" book under her own name.
Joyce is active in her local synagogue, and Kathleen is a former Catholic who's sister, a nun, died of breast cancer 15 years earlier, but Kathleen's health crisis leads her to seek the solace of her husband's faith and she returns to Temple where she meets the ebullient Joyce. The friendship that grows between these two fascinating women is the basis for an engaging plot, as the two women's lives both take compelling turns.
Do not fear that this becomes a tragic tale. Kathleen's cancer is not life threatening, but its presence is an overpowering shadow on her life, which provokes her to reexamine her priorities not only with others but within her family, especially with her two grown sons who have moved away to follow their careers. Joyce's troublesome relationship with an adolescent daughter and a career-driven husband is causing her to take stock of her marriage while she struggles to write a new novel.
Diamant brings both women alive on the page by alternating between the two women's perspectives. The deep relationship grows as they take long walks at Good Harbor beach and begin to bare their intimate histories and help one another heal old wounds.
Reviewed by Roz Shea (HOST BKPG ROZ) on January 22, 2011