Monday, September 12, 2022

Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark

Author Agnes Lee has made a name for herself with a series of children’s books about character, Nan, a self-assured little girl who gets into all kinds of adventures, but her passion is more for the "fly on the wall" series of novels she writes under a pen name about her fellow moneyed Philadelphians.  Her friend Polly Wister has made a life for herself as a mother and as a wife, dedicated to brightening the lives of those around her, soothing her husband’s fragile ego and striving never to rock the boat.  Both born to generational wealth in an era when a woman’s best hope and expectation was to make a matrimonial match, the two take sharply divergent paths in their lives, but those paths always lead to summers on Fellowship Point in Maine.  Agnes, having recently received a cancer diagnosis, is determined to find a way to preserve the wildlife sanctuary that exists on the families’ lands there and to finish one final novel before the end of her days.  Unfortunately, money-grubbing cousin Archie and Polly’s husband, Dick, who is rapidly descending into dementia, stand in her way.

Fellowship Point is a long, contemplative book that touches on many themes – feminism, friendship, philosophy, aging, love, and land ownership.  More than that, however, it’s a touching character study that illuminates the beauty of a friendship between two women who often couldn’t be more different from each other growing old side by side.  I couldn’t put down this tale of forthright, opinionated spinster Agnes with her hidden heart of gold and equilibrium-seeking Polly whose deference and willingness to put her family’s needs ahead of her own belies an inner backbone and intelligence that often is a surprise even to her.

In Dark’s hands, Agnes and Polly’s beloved Maine comes vividly to life, and provides a setting rife with both fond and dark memories for the pair of octogenarians to reflect upon.  I loved this story and the unique perspective of these women who are not ready to be pushed aside, even though society and their families both are hard at work trying to minimize them as they age.  The slow unveiling of Agnes’s secrets keeps the pages turning, but arguably the best thing about Fellowship Point is the thoughtful depiction of a lifelong friendship between women who know each other often better than they know themselves. 

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