“The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming. A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike.”
Bestselling author Anita Shreve uses humor and carefully researched detail to delicately and sympathetically address themes of violence and loss. In Shreve’s fictional worlds, many set in New England, ordinary people face tough choices—and driven by betrayal, desire, and love, often act on their darkest impulses. Shreve’s background in journalism and sociology brings a deep understanding of contemporary issues facing women in work, family, and relationships.
Shreve’s first novel, Eden Close, examines the issue of violence against women through the relationship between Andrew and Eden, who grew up living next door to each another in a farming community in upstate New York. As teenagers, they were on the verge of a potential love affair when Eden was raped by an intruder who permanently blinded her with gunshot. Andrew went on to college, marriage, and a career as an advertising executive in New York, while Eden remained at home. Now divorced and in his mid-thirties, Andrew returns, rekindles his friendship with Eden, and attempts to discover the identity of her attacker. Publishers Weekly lauded “Shreve’s evocative prose and elegiac voice,” while The New York Times Books Review contributor Carolyn Banks commented that the work’s “insights are keen, its language measured and haunting.”
In The Weight of Water, a photojournalist, Jean, is given the assignment to photograph the Isle of Shoals, off the New Hampshire coast, where an infamous nineteenth-century double murder took place. Susan Kenney, writing in The New York Times Book Review, praised it as “a cryptic long-lost narrative inside an impending family tragedy wrapped in a true-crime murder mystery framed by the aftermath of all of the above.” The Weight of Water was short-listed for the Orange Prize and was made into a movie starring Sean Penn, Catherine McCormack, and Elizabeth Hurley.
In The Pilot’s Wife, also set in New Hampshire, Kathryn Lyons is informed that her commercial pilot husband has died in a plane crash in Ireland. Investigators believe the crash to be suicide. Kathryn, conducting her own investigation, becomes suspicious of her late husband’s fidelity. Traveling to London to confirm her fears, she encounters his mistress and discovers his involvement in the Troubles in Ireland. The Pilot’s Wife examines inner anguish, secrets, betrayals, and methods of survival as a distraught widow comes to terms with her husband’s death and infidelity. The novel was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club and was made into a television movie starring Christine Lahti, John Heard, and Campbell Scott.
Her most recent novel, Stella Bain, is set during World War I and tells the story of a young woman who wakes up in a military hospital, suffering from pneumonia, shrapnel injuries, shell shock, and amnesia. She has with no idea where she came from or who she is, but despite her uneasiness about what she might learn as she reconstructs her past life, doing so becomes her consuming goal. Publishers Weekly calls the novel “both tender and harsh,” saying that “Shreve’s thoughtful, provocative, historical tale has modern resonance.” The Stars Are Fire, Shreve’s most recent book, was published in 2017.
In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L.L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. She has been a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York and has published her work in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, and dozens of others.
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. Together they have five children.
For more information about Anita Shreve, please visit www.anitashreve.com.
Photo: © Elena Seibert