New book: Commuters, by Emily Gray Tedrowe ’95 (Harper Perennial)
The author: Tedrowe, who has published short stories in publications including Other Voices and the Crab Orchard Review, says she can trace her literary accomplishments “directly back to what I learned at McCosh Hall and in Firestone.” The English major came out with her debut novel this summer. The idea for Commuters — which examines the repercussions of a later-in-life marriage — came from an experience she had as a teenager, when her grandmother’s 70-year-old friend got remarried.
The plot: The story opens with the sudden wedding of Winnie Easton, a widowed 78-year-old from the small, upstate town of Hartfield, N.Y., to a wealthy Chicago businessman, Jerry Trevis. His daughter, fearful of losing her inheritance, sues to freeze his assets; Winnie’s daughter, Rachel, has financial troubles and gets a loan from Trevis; and his 22-year-old grandson, Avery, pursues his dream of owning a restaurant thanks to Trevis.
Told in alternating perspectives of three main characters — Winnie, Rachel, and Avery — this novel about love, family, and money explores the jealousies and new relationships created by their union.
Opening lines: “It was a small-town June wedding, and the bride was seventy-eight.
“From the church balcony where she sat alone, Winnie could see how it all looked, without her: rows and rows of dark wood pews, the flutter and ripple of the guests who filled them, twin thumb-sized burst of yellow and white gladiolas set before the alter. She was supposed to be downstairs, in a small lounge off the vestibule; it was the place young children were rushed to when their fussing threatened to interrupt the service. She should have been admiring herself in the mirror, in this tea-length wedding gown of cream silk; she should have been conserving energy. But her face was as fixed as it would ever be, and she couldn’t rest anymore.”
Reviews: Kirkus called Commuters a “lovely and literate family drama that wins bonus points for its sincerity and open-hearted delivery. … Tedrowe graduates to elegant novelist. … The author’s deft handling of a large and distinctive cast should win raves from those who revel in this sort of ensemble crazy quilt.” Tedrowe, wrote Publishers Weekly, “shows great promise in her compassionate, nuanced depiction of love— among the old and young alike — and her confident handling of alternating, multigenerational narrators.” By Katherine Federici Greenwood
(Author photo by Audrey Keller Photography)