It’s my pleasure to spotlight The Northern Reach, a debut novel due for publication on 2nd March.
‘W. S. Winslow’s The Northern Reach is a breathtaking debut about the complexity of family, the cultural legacy of place, and the people and experiences that shape us.’
About the Book
Frozen in grief after the loss of her son at sea, Edith Baines stares across the water at a schooner, under full sail yet motionless in the winter wind and surging tide of the Northern Reach. Edith seems to be hallucinating. Or is she? Edith’s boat-watch opens The Northern Reach, set in the coastal town of Wellbridge, Maine, where townspeople squeeze a living from the perilous bay or scrape by on the largesse of the summer folk and whatever they can cobble together, salvage, or grab.
At the center of town life is the Baines family, land-rich, cash-poor descendants of town founders, along with the ne’er-do-well Moody clan, the Martins of Skunk Pond, and the dirt farming, bootlegging Edgecombs. Over the course of the twentieth century, the families intersect, interact, and intermarry, grappling with secrets and prejudices that span generations, opening new wounds and reckoning with old ghosts.
Edith Baines stares out the living room window at the schooner on the far side of the Northern Reach. It’s a traditional boat, big, maybe eighty feet, gaff-rigged with raked masts and some kind of carving on the prow, but in the inky light of the late afternoon she can’t make it out. The funny thing is, even though both the mainsail and the mizzen are raised, the boat isn’t moving. She squints but can’t see an anchor line, or even a buoy through the spitting snow. The current, she knows, is too strong for a mooring over there. Why doesn’t the boat drift? Where does it come from? Where is the crew? The questions itch unmercifully in her brain.
Descended from three generations of boatbuilders, Edith has always loved to sail. The summer she was ten—fifty-six years ago it would be now—her father took the family to Mount Desert Island for a weekend parade of tall ships. On a brilliant July morning, they climbed Cadillac Mountain. From a distance, the slopes had looked gentle and smooth like an old marble half-buried in the ground, but up close, on the trail, where the underlying granite pushed through the soil, the stone was brutal, fractured, and dangerous, and Edith imagined that just pulling out one rock might bring the whole mountain down on them. To avoid being buried alive, she walked with her hands in her pockets, kept strictly to the trail, and stepped carefully to avoid dislodging even a pebble.
At the summit, they surveyed her whole world, from the reach she’s looking at now, south to the bay, past the islands, and out to sea where the ocean met the sky in soft white surrender. They were so high up Edith imagined she could step off the mountain and onto the clouds. As they slid across the sky, the Porcupine Islands below them seemed to be swimming in the bay, bristled whales breaking the surface but leaving no wake. This, she thought, must be what it felt like to be God, but such blasphemous notions she’d learned to keep to herself. It took days and days to get the soap taste out of her mouth.
About the Author
A ninth-generation Mainer, W.S. Winslow was born and raised in Maine, but spent her adult life in New York, and later in San Francisco. These days, she lives most of the year in a small town Downeast. Wendie holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French from the University of Maine, and an MFA from NYU. Her fiction has been published in Yemassee Journal and Bird’s Thumb. The Northern Reach is her first novel.