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Reunion at Red Paint Bay

Cover of Reunion at Red Paint Bay

Reunion at Red Paint Bay

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Red Paint calls itself "the friendliest town in Maine," a place where everyone knows one another and nothing too disturbing ever happens. Native son Simon Howe is a sturdy family man--a good father and husband--and owner-editor of the town's newspaper. Because there's rarely any real news, he runs stories about Virgin Mary sightings, high school reunions, and petty criminals.

One day Simon's predictable and peaceful life is disrupted by the arrival of an anonymous postcard, the first in a series of increasingly menacing messages. He tries to ignore them, but the implied danger becomes more real, threatening to engulf his wife and son as well. The Howe family becomes engaged in a full-scale psychological battle with their unidentified stalker--without even knowing it. Secrets from Simon's past are uncovered, escalating toward a tense and unexpected climax.

More than a conventional mystery or thriller, Reunion at Red Paint Bay is an exploration of the consequences of guilt, denial, and moral absolutism. Harrar weaves a dramatic and suspenseful tale sure to spur readers into examining the limits of responsibility for one's actions.

Red Paint calls itself "the friendliest town in Maine," a place where everyone knows one another and nothing too disturbing ever happens. Native son Simon Howe is a sturdy family man--a good father and husband--and owner-editor of the town's newspaper. Because there's rarely any real news, he runs stories about Virgin Mary sightings, high school reunions, and petty criminals.

One day Simon's predictable and peaceful life is disrupted by the arrival of an anonymous postcard, the first in a series of increasingly menacing messages. He tries to ignore them, but the implied danger becomes more real, threatening to engulf his wife and son as well. The Howe family becomes engaged in a full-scale psychological battle with their unidentified stalker--without even knowing it. Secrets from Simon's past are uncovered, escalating toward a tense and unexpected climax.

More than a conventional mystery or thriller, Reunion at Red Paint Bay is an exploration of the consequences of guilt, denial, and moral absolutism. Harrar weaves a dramatic and suspenseful tale sure to spur readers into examining the limits of responsibility for one's actions.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    "You hired a rapist?" The description seemed so all-encompassing, as if a single word could sum up a man's whole nature rather than just one awful act. Didn't a person deserve at least a few sentences about his life before judging him?
    "I assume he didn't put that on his résumé," Amy said.
    "He had a record, not a résumé."
    She glanced out the window, then back at him. "You didn't tell me you were thinking of hiring a rapist."
    "I didn't know I was. I just went up there to check out the new incentives the state has for hiring prisoners when they're released. I ended up doing some interviews."
    "And hiring a rapist."
    "As it turned out."
    "There weren't any pedophiles or murderers available?"
    Simon braked hard at Five Corners, even though normally he would take his chances coasting through on the yellow to avoid waiting through the multiple lights. "I sense you don't approve."
    "I'm just wondering why you would hire a rapist."
    Rapist--how many times would she say it? "This guy has a name, which is David Rigero, and David scored higher than most of our regular applicants on the employment test. I liked him, too."
    "Liked him how?"
    "As someone to talk to. If I were sitting next to him on an airplane, I'd enjoy our conversation." [...]
    The traffic crept by in front of them--a few cars, a gasoline tanker, and a white unmarked truck, the kind often mentioned on crime reports as spotted leaving the scene. Should the people inside these vehicles all be judged by the worst thing they had ever done? Who could survive that scrutiny?

About the Author-
  • George Harrar is the author of two novels for adults, including the literary mystery The Spinning Man. Among his dozen published short stories, "The 5:22" won the prestigious Carson McCullers Prize and was selected for The Best American Short Stories 1999. Harrar lives west of Boston with his wife, Linda, a documentary filmmaker. Their son, Tony, was the inspiration for Harrar's award-winning novel for middle-grade readers titled Parents Wanted, published by Milkweed Editions.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 5, 2012
    Simon Howe edits the local newspaper in Red Paint, the "Friendliest Town in Maine," a community out of a Norman Rockwell painting where everybody knows everyone and a man losing a toe in an accident at the city landfill is front-page news. The placid surface of Simon's life is ruptured when he begins receiving anonymous postcards from someone who appears to be coming closer and closer to Red Paint. The postcards, we soon learn, are the work of a creepy former local who now calls himself Paul Chambers and believes Simon raped a girl decades ago during a drunken graduation party that Simon only hazily recalls. Harrar, author of novels for adults (The Spinning Man) and young adults (Parents Wanted), does a creditable job of creating an idyllically dull town, but the book is strongest when God-haunted Paul pierces Simon's cocoon of security in a bent quest for revenge, particularly in a chilling chapter when Paul sneaks into Simon's home and watches him sleep. Clumsy plotting mars the conclusion, and Harrar's prose is never any better than serviceable, but those who like their thrillers on the tame side will find a pleasant, if simple, diversion. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth.

  • Booklist

    "Harrar tacklessome big issues here, notably vengeance, guilt, and absolution, with the underlying question of when sex becomes rape. But messages aside, this is tightly written psychological suspense from the author of The Spinning Man (2003). Harrar is one of those writers on the verge of connecting with a much larger audience; this could be his moment."

  • Kirkus "Harrar skillfully echoes Alfred Hitchcock's theme about how a seemingly innocent man can be sucked into a disturbing vortex of forces that lie just below the surface of 'normal' life."
  • Huntington News "More than a conventional mystery or thriller, "Reunion at Red Paint Bay" lays bare the consequences of guilt, denial, and moral absolutism. The novel can be read on several levels, but it devolves into a book tailored to spur readers into examining the limits of responsibility for one's actions."
  • Elizabeth Cox, author of The Slow Moon "George Harrar tells a remarkable story about a newspaperman who struggles to tell the truth, feeling reluctant to bear the consequences, a story of human failure and hard redemption. The writing, razor-sharp and wildly insightful, creates characters who seem to jump off the page--becoming people we know, people we are. Read this book, each page mysterious and compelling, hiding within it the deep core of being human."
  • Metapsychology "Harrar's novel...is an intriguing and provocative take on some standard themes of contemporary fiction....Reunion at Red Paint Bay is well written even if it invites controversy and criticism. It is a memorable work that could spur some heated debate."
  • Interview Magazine "Secrets can haunt us. In George Harrar's novel Reunion At Red Paint Bay, secrets hunt us down for revenge."
  • Morning Sentinel "This is a gripping thriller, utterly convincing and alarming, as people struggle to justify past deeds, weigh the costs of the truth and decide that maybe a half-lie is just as good."
  • Seeing the World Through Books "Ironies abound here in this suspenseful study of universal themes of guilt, innocence, punishment, atonement, and absolution as seen through the seemingly simple life of a hitherto respected man in Red Paint Bay."
  • Book Page "George Harrar's incisive look at the soft-focus lens through which we view our respective pasts"
  • Tutu's Two Cents "The story resolution is quite wrenching. To say more would be to spoil a good read...It's a great tale of moral consequences, ethical dilemmas, differing perspectives, secrets, guilt and absolution."
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