Judith Kirscht’s fourth published novel, Hawkins Lane (New Libri Press), is part love story, part family saga, part mystery. Set in Washington State, its principle characters, Ned and Erica Hawkins, seek fulfillment and redemption in the North Cascades.
Kirscht is a writer who plants her stories firmly in setting: place drives character; character is motivated and transformed by place. Kirscht locates her novels in settings she knows intimately – Ann Arbor (Nowhere Else to Go), Chicago (The Inheritors), Santa Barbara (Home Fires), and now the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and the mountains that straddle the top of the state and extend into Canada.
In transitioning between two points of view, those of Ned and Erica, Kirscht is able to build the suspense that propels the reader through the narrative. Ned is reserved, reined in by his family’s past, hesitant about sharing his life with outsiders. Erica is impulsive, lively, stubborn – an outsider who falls in love with both Ned and his environment. Together, they become forest rangers, build a home in the mountains, and raise a daughter, Bonnie, who is both nourished and frustrated by their often incompatible natures.
Hawkins Lane is the story of a man’s struggle to escape the manacles of his past, and a woman’s determination to overcome her limitations. The narrative drive of the story is a tribute to Kirscht’s ability to simultaneously convey the pain of coping with adversity, and the joy of inhabiting the ‘place’ that brings repose. As W. Somerset Maugham famously said:
“Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. Here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.”