Given the breadth of Anita Diamant's bestselling biblical epic, The Red Tent
, it seems natural that her second novel has a much closer focus. Set in the small Massachusetts fishing town of Gloucester, Good Harbor
is a slow-paced study of female friendship. Here Diamant can luxuriate in the development of just two principal characters: 59-year-old Kathleen Levine, a children's librarian who is undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer, and a 42-year-old romance novelist, Joyce Tabachnik, who has bought a summer retreat in Gloucester in the hope of finally writing a "serious" book. The two meet at temple after a service presided over by a newly hired female rabbi. (What joy it must have been for Diamant, who chronicled so much oppression of Hebrew women in The Red Tent
, to casually include the presence of female clergy.) Kathleen has no real confidante aside from her husband, Buddy; Joyce is facing estrangement from both her business-minded husband, Frank, and her soccer-obsessed daughter, Nina. What the women are lacking, they find in each other. As their intimacy grows, Diamant sometimes tells us what we already know, breaking into a conversation, for example, to announce how well things are going ("They smiled at each other. They were going to be okay."). This is a moving story nonetheless--short on incident, but with carefully drawn characters and fluid, matter-of-fact prose. --Regina Marler
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