A rookie paramedic pulls a young woman alive from her totaled car, a first rescue that begins a lifelong tangle of love and wreckage. Sheila Arsenault is a gorgeous enigma - streetwise and tough-talking, with haunted eyes, fierce desires, and a never-look-back determination. Peter Webster, as straight an arrow as they come, falls for her instantly and entirely. Soon Sheila and Peter are embroiled in an intense love affair, married, and parents to a baby daughter. Like the crash that brought them together, it all happened so fast.
Can you ever really save another person? Eighteen years later, Sheila is long gone and Peter is raising their daughter, Rowan, alone. But Rowan is veering dangerously off track, and for the first time in their ordered existence together, Webster fears for her future. His work shows him daily every danger the world contains, how wrong everything can go in a second. All the love a father can give a daughter is suddenly not enough.
Sheila's sudden return may be a godsend--or it may be exactly the wrong moment for a lifetime of questions and anger and longing to surface anew. What tore a young family apart? Is there even worse damage ahead? The questions lifted up in Anita Shreve's utterly enthralling new novel are deep and lasting, and this is a novel that could only have been written by a master of the human heart.
Having earned a reputation for channeling women so aptly in The Pilot’s Wife and other best sellers, in Rescue, Anita Shreve explores the world of parenthood and broken relationships from the perspective of a man. Dennis Holland ably carries the first person narration of Peter Webster, paramedic and single father to Rowan who is falling apart.
In this story of many different types of rescues, Shreve and Holland take the listener from a snowy hilltop where Webster dreams he’ll build a warm and safe home for his family one day to the dangerous curve of highway where his family dangerously and awkwardly begins. It is at the scene of an accident there that he meets Sheila his future wife and the mother of his daughter an alcoholic who has wrapped her car around a tree.
Rescue is the story of Peter’s attempts to save Sheila from the burning vehicle, from her past, from her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But he simply cannot save her from herself. Holland’s voice embodies a very careful balance between deeply seeded rage and pure and abiding love for his family. It is only when Sheila’s alcoholism threatens their daughter’s safety, that one overcomes the other. In this part of the story, Holland’s voice is eerily calm, expertly burying the fury and pain of this protective father and wounded husband.
Shreve and Holland explore the impact of alcoholism on families those left behind and those who leave. They leave it up to the listener to decide which is lonelier. Though he is able to pull bodies from burning vehicles, Peter is unable to rescue his wife from her own disease or his daughter from what seems like the beginning of a dangerous path. All he can do is love and hope in the end that is all we have. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
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- Pamela Harvey