"I wonder this: If you take a woman and push her to the edge, how will she behave?" The question is posed by Jean, a photographer, who in 1995 arrives on
The suspicion that her husband is having an affair burgeons into jealousy and distrust, and ultimately propels Jean to the verge of actions she had not known herself capable of-actions with horrific consequences.
In a novel everywhere hailed for its beauty and power, Anita Shreve takes us on an unforgettable journey through the farthest extremes of emotion.
Shreve learned about the Smuttynose murders in 1973, while on a sailing trip with her family. During this trip, she visited the Isles of Shoals, a small group of islands off the coast of
In creating The Weight of Water, Shreve carefully wove the historical story with the fictional one, though, she maintains "the heart of the book has almost nothing to do with the facts." Rather, she used the historical record as a springboard for a larger story that explores the consequences of pushing a woman to the edge. Shreve says she was not the first to question the outcome of the murder trial, but she found it "a very hard book to write" because ultimately she intended for the reader to have sympathy for the women of Smuttynose.
Debate about the identity of the Smuttynose murderer continues to this day, rekindled by the publication of The Weight of Water. "The facts are out there for speculation," Shreve says, "The book is something separate from that debate."
Anita Shreve grew up in
Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories ("I really could have," she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, "Past the Island, Drifting," won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn't make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to
Returning to the
In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot's Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah's Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot's Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.
Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. "The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming," she says. "A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike."
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.