A Ship Made Of Paper / Scott Spencer

After a violent encounter in New York City, the book’s protagonist, Daniel Emerson, returns to the small Hudson River town where he grew up. Accompanied by Kate Ellis, his long-time girlfriend, and her young daughter, he moves into his childhood home and opens a small law practice. The daughter, Ruby, is a child Daniel loves dearly. His relationship with Kate is more complicated. She is a published author with one successful novel to her credit, but is suffering writer’s block with a second. To support herself (and Daniel to a certain extent), she has turned her artistic attention to the O. J. Simpson trial that is taking place at the time, writing numerous articles for magazines that assert his guilt in the murder of a girlfriend. Kate has also begun to drink too much, and this affects the couple’s relationship. Daniel, in the meantime, has become infatuated with Iris Davenport, a black woman whose son is Ruby’s best friend. Tackling the emotionally charged topic of race, Spencer is to be commended for attempting to describe an interracial relationship. Unfortunately, he is far too clumsy and obvious in setting the stage for the story’s key turning points. On the night that Daniel and Iris finally declare their interest in each other, a freak October snow storm is taking place, and throughout the city, trees are noisily crashing to the ground from the weight of the accumulation. When Daniel accidently injures Iris’ husband, it occurs when both men are lost in the ruins of a forest destroyed by the storm. Even the gun that is introduced into the hands of Ruby and her best friend seems totally staged for effect. Spencer does a good job of capturing the highs and lows of Iris and Daniel’s forbidden relationship, with its intense desire and crippling guilt for the partners they are betraying. And he has written a story that keeps the reader’s interest. But his heavy handedness left me feeling manipulated. In the end, this interracial relationship simply seemed too contrived to ring true, despite its cast of sympathetic characters.

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