THE LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE. By Kimberly Brock. Harper Muse. 464 pages. $26.99.
“The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare,” Georgia Author of the Year Award-winning second novel by Kimberly Brock (“The River Witch”), is a love letter to mother-daughter relationships and the power that storytelling entails. -even has in shaping our identities — and sometimes subverting them.
“My mom taught me that a story matters, not because it’s true, but because it’s been told,” Brock writes.
In the final days of World War II, widow Alice Young and her teenage daughter Penn return to their ancestral home, Evertell, outside Savannah, where long-buried family secrets await rediscovery and unraveling. account. Alice and Penn are descendants of Eleanor Dare, mother of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas (in 1587) and central figure in the mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke.
Brock’s novel is inspired by the story of the Dare Stones, 48 chiseled rocks discovered in the Southeast between 1937 and 1940, believed to tell the fate of the survivors of the Roanoke Colony. Dismissed as hoaxes and largely forgotten, the stones exist at the boundaries between reality and fiction, history and myth.
And from this liminal space, Brock carves out his fictional tale of Dare’s descendants and their mundane book, passed down from mother to daughter for generations, housing the accumulated wisdom, cards, potions, and recipes of its guardians.
Just as the gravitational pull of the moon fills and empties our salty Lowcountry creeks, people are attached to the ebb and flow of their past. Returning instincts take us back to our places of origin, where accounts with the unresolved past often await us.
So it’s Evertell, the house Alice wishes to sell to grant Penn entrance into the prestigious boarding school of her dreams, while the curious Penn is forced to delve into her hitherto unknown birthright and his family’s ties to the great American mystery of the Lost. Colony.
Unable to come to terms with the sad ending to her own mother’s story and the more recent passing of her father, Alice is eager to end Evertell and all its mysteries, but Penn embraces the Lowcountry landscape, teeming with possibility. of discovery and magic.
In the context of the war, Brock also tells us the fascinating story of Evertell’s caretaker, Sonder Holloway, a seasoned soothsayer who turns his attention to the radio waves each night, listening intently to the names of American prisoners of war, in the sincere hope to share news. of their fate with their families.
Reunited for the first time since childhood, Sonder and Alice are engulfed in the inescapable influence of Dare family history and secrets older than the American nation.
The town of Savannah itself is as much a character as a setting for Brock’s multi-generational mystery. Here, Juliette Gordon Low started the Girl Scouts and Mary Telfair established the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1886, the first public art museum in the South and the first in the United States founded by a woman.
Tybee Island and the coastal woods and marshes create a lavish but dangerous new world for Penn to explore with her mother and a curious group of Lowcountry denizens, each also bearing the burden of their own individual and shared history.
“The Evertell heirs always know how to find their way home,” according to the Dare family legend. When long-lost pages from the mundane book lead to confessions and revelations, Alice and Penn must choose between the bitterness that anchors them in the past and forgiveness as the gateway to their future and a return home to peace. delay, not only in one place but in each other.
Brock writes with poise and patience, deftly balancing multiple viewpoints across multiple time periods as she reveals the well-kept secrets of her narrative with nuance and thoughtfulness. The dreamy, lyrical quality of its writing style honors the rugged beauty of its setting, following the rhythm of the tides to hide and reveal truths in time, always remaining open to the possibilities of the presence of the mystical and the divine.
Beautiful memory of a novel that is both historical and speculative, “The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare” is the empowering story of nearly 20 generations of women who have survived, thrived and sometimes disappeared, thanks to their ability to bear the brunt of from their past, to discover and learn the lessons of their present, and to pass on their wisdom from mother to daughter through the legacy of their stories – some of which might even be true.
Critical Holland Perryman is a senior at Beaufort High School and the first intern student at the Pat Conroy Literary Center. Jonathan Haupt is the center’s executive director and co-editor of “Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy.”