‘Everything Depends on the Quality and Direction of Light’

An excerpt from Haven Point, a new novel by Virginia Hume.

The following is the prologue of my debut novel, Haven Point. Since the late 19th century, the Demarest family has spent summers on Haven Point, a remote enclave on the Maine coast. The novel tells the story of three generations of Demarest women, each of whom has a fraught relationship with the insular summer colony.

Haven Point is not in any way a political story, but it delivers a timely message for our political moment, as it explores the very human tendency toward pattern-seeking, and how the stories we tell ourselves, often unconsciously, can be tainted by grief, shame, fear and pride. At its heart, Haven Point is a meditation on the healing power of forgiveness, a commodity in short supply in our tribal and polarized time.

Haven Point is now available to purchase from Amazon and other booksellers.

PROLOGUE

August 2008

Haven Point, Maine

Maren

Maren took her mug of coffee outside and sank into the wicker love seat. Skye would finally arrive the following day. Maren had so much she needed to tell her granddaughter. The conversation was long overdue, but Maren was still uncertain how to go about it, or even where to begin.

From the water came the sound of a horn, and Maren looked up to see a race underway. For the next half hour, she watched sailboats fly across the bay, white sails trimmed to harness the brisk breeze. The boats rounded their mark and went behind Gunnison Island, but from her perch high on the cliff, Maren could still catch glimpses of the mastheads when they emerged from behind clumps of spruce, like stealthy hunters gliding between coverts.

The cannon shot signaling the end of the race startled Maren from her reverie. She had been like this since her daughter died six months earlier, wavering between agonizing grief and a strange fugue state. Most days she had found herself sitting in this very spot for hours, just staring out at the water.

If Georgie was right (and she usually was), the hurricane barreling toward the coast could cause problems on Haven Point. It was hard to imagine, given the crisp air and sapphire sky today, but Maren had spent enough summers here to know how quickly the skies could change. With no more effort than it took to wipe a cloth across a dusty shelf, a storm could mock their efforts to tame this wild peninsula. Go ahead. Build your roads. Carve your paths. Plant your gardens. Never forget who’s really in charge, though.

She and Skye would be fine in Fourwinds, of course. The old house had faced down plenty of weather in its day. Maren sat listening to the ocean engaged in its violent, noisy, age-old battle with the rocks below. That strangely pacifying sound was the heartbeat of this house. She’d always thought of Fourwinds as a living thing—pulsing, thrumming, speaking to her. She had loved it from the first, even when she so mistrusted the community outside its doors.

Skye did not know it yet, but Fourwinds would be hers someday. Maren had planned to leave it to both her children, but a few years earlier, Billy had made his wishes clear.

“I love it there, but I’ve lived abroad my whole adult life. Let Annie have the house,” he’d said.

“She wouldn’t want it.”

“You never know,” Billy replied with a gentle smile. “She just might decide to come back to Haven Point someday.”

Billy had been right. In the end, the very end, Annie had wanted to come back. 

Her granddaughter did not know this yet either. After the memorial service, Skye had asked what they would do with the ashes. “We can figure it out later,” Maren had said. Skye had been satisfied. She had no reason to imagine her mother—flaky on her best day, downright reckless on her worst—had

left detailed instructions on that (or any) subject. There was so much Skye didn’t understand about her mother.

Maren rose and went inside to the living room. Her eyes took in the books, trophies, and pictures that crowded the shelves. They were all there, the Demarest women, layered over one another like a fossil record. Even Annie. Her daughter might have abandoned this house, but Fourwinds had not returned the favor. She was everywhere: her name next to Charlie’s on the Stinneford Cup trophy, her face in photographs, her soul in paintings and drawings.

And she lived on in Skye, too. Maren smiled at the memory of Oliver’s reaction all those years before, when Annie told them she had decided to have a baby.

“Ah, artificial insemination.” Oliver had nodded in his doctorly way, as if she had told him she planned to try a new heartburn medication.

“What an interesting idea. Do clinics provide this service to single women?”

“I think so. I’m still looking into it,” Annie had said breezily. “If not, Flora said she would pretend she’s my lover.”

How Oliver had not fallen out of his chair at that moment, Maren would never know. But of course, he was careful with Annie, after everything that happened. They promised to love Skye, to do all they could to help raise her. They hadn’t realized what they were signing up for, but it never mattered. From the first moment, they were so beguiled by the little redhead, they would have cheerfully laid down their lives for her.

Still, Skye saw Haven Point as her mother had: beautiful on the surface, petty and snobbish underneath. Maren understood; she had once felt just the same way. It was only in the worst moment of her life that she realized what she’d missed. Just as the big storms wiped out Haven Point Road, exposing the bedrock beneath, it had taken grief and pain washing everything away for Maren to finally see the community’s sturdy foundation, its titanic heart.

Maren recalled a maxim Annie used to share with her art students at the start of each semester: Everything depends on the quality and direction of light. It was only in the last year that Annie had finally applied this lesson to her own life, that she relinquished the story she had clung to for so long, about what had happened here and who was responsible. By then, it had been too late.

But it was not too late for Skye.