14 March 2011

Review: Rescue by Anita Shreve

Peter Webster, senior emergency medical technician (EMT) in his Vermont community, is a long-time single parent. When he discovers his seventeen-year-old daughter, Rowan, has started to drink, memories of his ex-wife come flooding back. No matter how skilled Peter is at rescuing strangers, he feels unsure about his ability to help those he loves the most.

Anita Shreve's Rescue focuses on steady, safe Peter Webster and his lightening-fast relationship with Sheila Arsenault. Peter's introduction to her occurs early in his EMT career when he is called to the scene of a one-car accident. Sheila, who had been drinking, is lucky to have survived, and Peter cannot stop thinking about her, quickly falling in love. Sheila has a complicated past, but she likes Peter and agrees to marry him when she learns she's pregnant, just a couple months after they've met.

As suddenly as their relationship started, it ends, and Peter moves in with his parents, who help raise Rowan. It isn't until Rowan starts pushing the boundaries that Peter begins to reflect on his marriage and worry about how easily his daughter could follow in the footsteps of a mother she can't remember.

Shreve's talent at creating familiar, believable characters shines in Rescue. Almost all of us have seen a relationship that took off at warp speed. Some of these couples manage to find a comfortable pace at which to cruise through life, but most eventually spin out of control. Peter and Sheila are among the latter. He may not be worldly wise, but he has found his budding maturity; she has big-city street smarts but cannot stand up to her troubles.

Rescue doesn't offer many surprises, but not all examinations of a life need to shock. Peter's story is interesting precisely because it mirrors reality. If you ever found yourself in need of emergency medical help, Peter is the man you'd want to turn to. He was born to do that kind of work. He is careful, precise, calming, and experienced. He knows the protocol. Unfortunately for Peter, there is no checklist for being a husband or father, and your heart goes out to him in his solo, stumbling efforts to deal with his headstrong daughter.

And, in fact, a central theme in the novel is the conflicting needs for independence and assistance. We can require help and we can even be offered help, but the real trick is being ready to accept help. Peter, Sheila, and Rowan must all find a way past this dilemma.

Rescue may not make your top-ten list, but the novel is well worth your time. Book club discussions will likely focus on the EMT scenes, single parenthood, alcoholism, rescue (in all its forms), and the nature of love and relationships.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Hachette Audio; 7 hr, 30 min) read by Dennis Holland. Holland's expressive reading keeps listeners engaged without interfering with their personal reactions. His voice is smooth and easy to listen to. A recommended audio.

Rescue was an Indie Next Pick for December 2010. For more on Anita Shreve, visit her website, where you will also find a reading group guide.

Rescue at Powell's
Rescue at Book Depository
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Published by Hachette Group / Little, Brown, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780316020725
YTD: 28
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Uniflame 3/14/11, 6:25 AM  

This might be interesting and I have been looking to "read" another audio book :) However I wonder if it is full of medical terms? Since English isn't my first language, this might be hard for me to follow.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 3/14/11, 6:35 AM  

I'm glad the audio was good. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I did read this one and it was not a favorite Shreve read, but I still enjoy this author.

Mary 3/14/11, 7:19 AM  

I think I'll add it to my audio wish list.

Beth F 3/14/11, 7:23 AM  

@Uniflame: The book isn't *full* of medical terms, but there are a number of scenes that have Peter at work during an emergency medical rescue. The book opens with a rescue, so you'd know in the first 25 pages or so if you'd have trouble with the terms.

@Diane I know what you mean, but this is still good book.

Mari 3/14/11, 8:28 AM  

Thanks for the review. I have this on hold at the library and am glad to hear you enjoyed the audio.

I LOVE Shreve's first 5/6 novels... after that they never meet my expectations so I will be prepared for a good read, not a favorite.

Kate 3/14/11, 9:01 AM  

Thank you for commenting on the narration! I love audio books, but a bad narration can make a book unpleasant to listen to. I think a great narrator can take an average book and make it shine. I'll have to add this to my list!

Rural View 3/14/11, 9:29 AM  

I read one of Anita Shreve's books years ago and decided she was an acquired taste that I didn't have the patience to acquire. In the years since I've changed a lot; perhaps it's time to try her again.

Zibilee 3/14/11, 11:36 AM  

I have only read one Shreve book, and while i didn't totally love it, it was interesting and somewhat nuanced, so I might have to give this one a try. Thanks for the very perceptive review on this book. The EMT angle fascinates me.

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 3/14/11, 11:50 AM  

I must be one of the few people on the planet who has not read an Anita Shreve novel. I don't know how I managed to miss them but I'm going to have to remedy this very soon.

Beth Hoffman 3/14/11, 12:17 PM  

I adored Anita Shreeve's THE PILOTS WIFE, and thought the subject matter of RESCUE isn't something that I'm drawn to, I might give it a try.

Terrific review, as always.

Sandy Nawrot 3/14/11, 1:07 PM  

I listened to Testimony on audio a couple of years ago, and it blew me out of the water. I actually think I was shaking a little for a couple of hours after I finished it. I know her books can be hit or miss, but this one seems worthy of a look.

Julie P. 3/14/11, 1:43 PM  

I love Anita Shreve's books and can't wait to read this one.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 3/14/11, 1:47 PM  

I've consistently liked Shreve for many years, though I've always worried that she might lean over a bit more and become another Picoult.

bermudaonion 3/14/11, 5:00 PM  

This sounds like another winner from Shreve!

Just Mom 3/14/11, 5:56 PM  

We had such different opinions of the narrator! I found him such a distraction at first that I wasn't sure if I could listen to it on audio. But after awhile the story sucked me in and I was able to get past it. You are in the majority because I saw on the cover he has won awards for his narration! I always enjoy your reviews

Nise' 3/14/11, 8:18 PM  

I have enjoyed Shreve's books that I have listened to but not the 2 that I've read. Strange.

BookGeek 3/14/11, 10:10 PM  

I like the theme that she has going on in this book. It definitely would make a great book club pick. I'll have to keep it in mind. Great review!

Rebecca Rasmussen 3/15/11, 9:29 AM  

I've heard really good things about this book -- and I love that it may not be the best book ever written but that it was well worth you time :)

Darlene 3/15/11, 3:07 PM  

I haven't enjoyed the last few of Shreve's books so I hadn't picked this one up yet. Maybe I will or better yet get the audio from the library.

Leslie 3/15/11, 3:44 PM  

I felt the same way about this one. It was good but not one of my favorites. Perhaps I shouldn't be comparing it to some of her earlier books which I absolutely loved.

Jenners 3/15/11, 8:36 PM  

This sounds pretty heavy but like a good audio listen.

Kris 3/16/11, 2:05 PM  

I keep meaning to read something by this author but still haven't. Sounds like this would be a good one to pick up on audio though.

Swapna 3/16/11, 6:20 PM  

Great review! I enjoyed this one as well. I agree it had a quiet nature, but I think that's what I liked about it.

picky girl 3/17/11, 12:49 PM  

When I was an undergrad I absolutely devoured Anita Shreve's books. I read everything I could get my hands on. I haven't picked up any of her books in quite a while, so maybe it's time.

Jennifer 3/22/11, 9:14 PM  

Great review. I have seen this book on shelves in bookstores a lot and it has definitely piqued my interest. I really enjoyed the points that you have made about the novel. You have definitely inspired me to pick it up.

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