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Compass Rose    by John Casey order for
Compass Rose
by John Casey
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A follow-on to the author's National Book Award-winning Spartina, this novel continues the story of the people in the small Rhode Island fishing village John Casey has created. A more individual set of characters you could not hope for. Not only do they feel distinct and true, Casey takes us into their minds and hearts. It is uncanny how he is able to present the various women in this work. Their thoughts and hopes and wishes spill out onto the page as if he were able to record them.

Elsie is the mother of Rose, but in reality there are two other mothers, May and Mary. May is the wife of Rose's father, and Mary is a good friend to both of them. Rose grows up in two families, and her great gift is to bring what to the gossipy small community is a disastrous family situation to a sort of equilibrium. Because everyone is basically decent, even though some are more thoughtless or reckless, a land grab is also averted.

Beautifully written, the book is one to savor. Discussion groups will have fun teasing out some of the story details that are a little fuzzy because we only get to know them in the minds of the characters. I also think it would help if Spartina came first on the reading list, but this is not absolutely necessary.

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