Phil Lewis | Bookshop Buzz: 'Heart Spring Mountain' by Robin MacArthur

"Heart Spring Mountain" opens in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene: swollen rivers and streams, shattered landscapes and ruined homes. Bonnie, drawn by the irresistible forces of nature on display, wanders the rain-drenched streets of a small Vermont town. She is last seen standing on a bridge looking out over the roiling river below.

Bonnie's daughter Vale, long-estranged from her mother, lives in New Orleans where she works as a bartender. When Vale receives notice of her mother's disappearance, she immediately heads back to Vermont to look for Bonnie.

Over the next few months, Vale searches for her mother in the town and in the surrounding hills and woodlands where she grew up and where her family has lived for generations. As she searches, she slowly comes to terms with who she is and what compelled her to leave in the first place.

MacArthur deftly weaves the lives of three generations of Vermont women into this marvelous story about the search for meaning, set against the background of an isolated farm in the mountains. It's a story of loss and of hope. It explores the frictions within families — the hurt caused and eventual healing. The book slips backwards and forwards in time, slowly revealing the secrets and tensions that bind the generations together.

"Heart Spring Mountain" is a treasure. It is absorbing, mesmerizing and deeply felt. I didn't want it to end, but was compelled to read on to the satisfying conclusion. The characters are real and well-developed, the settings evocative. This is the perfect read for a weekend by the fire. I was reminded of Elizabeth Strout's writing at its best.

Robin MacArthur lives and works on the Vermont farm where she was born. Her previous book is a collection of stories, Half Wild: Stories, published in 2016. Heart Spring Mountain is her first novel.

Phil Lewis is co-owner of The Bennington Bookshop. "Heart Spring Mountain" is available at The Bennington Bookshop, or can be purchased online here:


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