Friday, September 4, 2009

Testimony: Anita Shreve

At a private high school in Vermont, the lives of four teenagers are ruined when a sex scandal is made public. Testimony is just that: testimonies. Shreve has intricately woven the testimonies of various people involved in the scandal, impressively alternating the writing style to give dimension to each character.

Shreve impressed me with her novel Bodysurfing for reasons completely different from why this new novel impresses me. While Bodysurfing was intense with charged family emotions, Testimony is intense with scandal. The students involved give moving testimonies that are set against the parents' grieving accounts of the aftermath. There are a lot of characters in this novel, which is sometimes distracting, but I understand why Shreve includes them. She fills out a complicated story with rounded testimonies from all sides of the scandal.

This is not a story with a happy Hollywood ending. Ultimately, one student is dead and three others are robbed of their future prospects, all for the sake of one drunken night. It seems that Shreve directs the characters to explain motive. While blame is passed around, I'm not sure a motive is really present. Sometimes teenagers get drunk and do stupid things--who knows why?

I respect Shreve as a writer ; her skill is honed. She writes with creativity and insight, and her characters are always dimensional. She manages to take seemingly thin plot lines and infuse them with an entire world of emotions.


  1. You might like Greg Iles' "Turning Angel" if you enjoyed this -- from the sound of the plot.

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