What defines a legacy? Is it a fortune, a factory, or a debt, a grandfather’s prized baseball card collection or a mother’s silver spoons? Sarah Carlisle’s River and Other Stories begins with a family legacy. Sarah— the author’s ancestor and mother of Gardner Colby, benefactor of Colby College—married a successful Maine shipbuilder and lived a life of wealth, even extravagance, until the war of 1812 destroyed the business and erased all traces of former fortune. “Having known what such adversity is,” Sarah wrote to a nephew who’d fallen on hard times, “I can appreciate the distress you are in.”
Through nine short stories and a cast of vibrant characters, Sarah Carlisle’s River collects legacies of all forms—not all as tangible as Sarah’s letter. Take a journey, and nothing may change hands but tickets. But now and then. . . a train ride to Texas connects two orthodox students, unmoored from competing religions. A celebrated computer geek flies to the Caribbean to help his father but finds his own future reprogrammed. The harmony of three musicians is altered for good when the trio accepts a booking at an Edinburgh nightclub.
“It’s the vocal textures: nimble sentences, sometimes buoyant, sometimes poignant, always with the sense that the momentum is the story. Cynthia Lang writes of aspiration, chagrin, fleeting contentment. . . often the equilibrium her people seek is just millimeters out of reach. . . These stories open themselves across 200 years, two continents and the Caribbean, commingling ethnicities and temperatures so deftly that we may forget we’re being edified.” — Virginia Euwer Wolff, winner of the 2001 National Book Award, Young People’s Literature for True Believer (Simon & Schuster/Atheneum)
Cynthia Lang graduated from Smith College. She was born in Newton, MA, lived in Cambridge, and currently lives in Gloucester and Tucson, AZ. She won a Vogue Prix de Paris, worked as a staff writer on Glamour, then free-lanced for Glamour, Parents, Mademoiselle, Vogue Children, and New York Times Magazine. She wrote publications for the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and taught at the College of Communications, Boston University. With Jerome Kagan, she co-authored Psychology and Education: An Introduction (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich); and with Harry Levinson, Executive (Harvard University Press).
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