By Anita Shreve
Little, Brown, and Company November 2010
After 21 year old rookie paramedic Peter Webster rescues Sheila from a car wreck, he can’t stop thinking about her. The fact that her accident was caused by drunk driving should have given him pause, but he falls in love anyway. Their relationship moves faster than Peter anticipated once Sheila reveals she is pregnant. Responsible, love-struck Webster proposes and the two embark on the journey of parenthood together.
When things are good, the three of them live an idyllic life. But Sheila’s love for her family isn’t enough to keep her from drinking. When she puts their daughter’s life in danger, Peter sends Sheila away. He doesn’t hear from her again and raises their daughter Rowan alone. As Rowan nears her high school graduation, she begins to spin out of control, resembling her mother - angry and drunk. Out of options, Webster tries to find Sheila with the hope that she can save their daughter.
Rescue has a great flow to it and is really easy to read. I think this is due to a lot of the book consisting of dialogue. I actually read it in a day. Ms. Shreve has managed to tackle the really difficult topic of alcoholism and write about it effortlessly. You can’t help but feel bad for Webster who loves Sheila and tries so hard, even though you know she will break his heart sooner or later. “Sheila was silent. Webster feared a curtain was slowly descending…When she turned to him, she had that half smile that he’d learn to distrust. Webster could create moments, but he couldn’t string enough of them together to make a life.”
The characters are well-written. For me, this book hovered around becoming too sweet and predictable but never actually crossed that line. Webster is a very, very good person but he stays believable. The story is set in a small town, but it’s not obnoxious and clichéd, as is so often the case. Some of the strongest moments in this book are those between Webster and his parents.
Shreve is able to write strong relationships without them being cheesy. She may be telling a familiar story, but she writes with compassion and grace. Rescue is a lovely book about the things that rip families apart and the lengths we will go to keep them together.