“Even though she’d asked for it,” begins ROWING IN EDEN, “Sam Pollak could not help feeling guilty the day he killed his wife.” Louise was, after all, the only person in the world he loved. And although he felt as if the truth were branded on his forehead, no one else seemed able to read it—until the phone calls began.
On the surface, the tiny village of Old Wickham, New York, is a Norman Rockwell montage of red-cheeked youngsters skating on ponds, dogs frolicking in the snow, and villagers gathered around wood-burning stoves. Yet Sam is not the only tormented soul in town. There’s also Peter Quinn, a brilliant, troubled 14-year-old foster child with quick fists and a truckload of attitude. And then there’s the unknown arsonist, who started with barns and is working his way up to houses. Suspicions divide the village, scapegoats are sought, and the back room of the country store gives rise to a Greek chorus of collective rage. In this crucible of guilt and distrust, old alliances are tested and new ones forged; no one emerges unchanged.
The Story Behind the Story
“Ursula LeGuin once said that first sentences are the doors to other worlds. Yet for many writers, the hardest part of writing is beginning, facing that first blank sheet of paper. When I teach writing, I often do an exercise to help my students break through that barrier. ‘Write five first sentences,’ I tell them, ‘the opening lines to five different stories.’ Since they know they will never have to write another word of those stories, there’s no pressure and they can let their imaginations run wild.
One day, to fill in time while my class did the assignment, I wrote my own first sentence, pulled out of thin air. ‘Even though she’d asked for it,” I wrote, “Sam Pollak could not help feeling guilty the day he killed his wife.’ I had no idea who this man was or why he had killed his wife, but I was powerfully curious; and since there was no one to ask, the only way to find out was to write the book that became ROWING IN EDEN.”
“Lively and sympathetic writing…highly engaging characters…a beguiling portrait of love lost and found and selfhood redeemed.”—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
“Rogan’s heartwarming tale of guilt, redemption, new beginning, and burgeoning relationships makes us marvel at her ability to seen so well into the souls of her characters.”---LibraryJournal
“Compelling and moving…wonderful storytelling.”—Whitney Otto, author of How To Make an American Quilt.
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