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Gravesend Light

Gravesend Light

By David PaynePublisher: Cedar Lane BooksISBN: 9798218155193Genre: Fiction Price: $18.00
Available from: Bookshop

Joey Madden, the eleven-year-old narrator of Ruin Creek, is Joe now, a twenty-eight-year-old, Duke-trained anthropologist back on the Outer Banks doing ethnographic fieldwork in Little Roanoke, a traditional fishing community under stress from modernization. Attending services at Little Roanoke's evangelical church, Joe secures a berth aboard a commercial trawl boat called the Father's Price. Between trips to sea, Joe crosses paths with Day Shaughnessey, MD, an OB/GYN whose provision of birth and abortion services to local island women has put her in the crosshairs of the conservative community Joe has come to study. In the same family summer house where Joe once lived the painful end of his parents' marriage, his relationship with Day now begins. As they converge romantically, however, Joe and Day increasingly diverge on politics. If those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it, it's Joe and Day's fate-and Joe's, in particular-- to learn that those who can't forget the past are oftentimes condemned to repeat it, too.

Hillsborough's David Payne is the author of the memoir, Barefoot to Avalon, and five novels, including his newly reissued Outer Banks series: Early from the Dance, Ruin Creek and Gravesend Light. Payne is a longtime member of the MFA faculty at Queens University in Charlotte.


If you don’t belong to a book club, start one with this book. If you already have a reading group, stage a coup during that frustrating selection process at the end of each meeting. This is a novel to disturb the deadly niceness that afflicts so many book clubs. A smart love story that will incite group wrestling… the grains of this plot eventually gain an irresistible momentum till it begins to move like an avalanche, crashing toward a spectacular natural disaster and a moral calamity. Joe’s search for the magnetic field that orients people’s lives and shapes their thoughts and actions finally takes him deep into that first, final, and most harrowing subject: himself. The novel reaches its climax in an explosively told disaster at sea that makes it clear there are no perfect storms. Payne is a rough, but trustworthy captain, and this is a story that rolls and pitches through all the moral waves of modern life.

--Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

David Payne is a writer whom readers take personally, a novelist who speaks to their lives, whose books become part of their experience. He began with a flourish in 1984 with the publication of an exuberant fabulation, ”Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street.” This was followed by another large novel, ”Early from the Dance” and, in 1993, a shorter country cousin, ”Ruin Creek.” ”Gravesend Light” [is] another wonderful book…Payne sees and hears the human reality in every situation; the book is certainly the captivating summer read promised in some of the early publicity, but it is also something different from, and more than, that. Payne pegs all of his characters as adroitly as a casting director, but then they surprise us with things that don’t ”belong” there; he hears the variety and music of different kinds of speech; he knows what things look like and how they feel in the hand; he has learned how a fishing boat works and how complicated the human heart is. His words are like stones, polished smooth, then dropped into great depths, leaving ever-widening ripples of implication… Payne sees his characters for who they are, accepts them, loves them, and joins their voices in a hymn of life.

--Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe

In this story of a young man in search of self-knowledge, Payne mines a psychological depth that few authors attempt, never mind reach…his writing skills are prodigious.

--The Winston-Salem Journal