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The Right-Hand Shore by Christopher Tilghman

The Right-Hand Shore (edition 2012)

by Christopher Tilghman, Scott Sowers (Performer)

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946193,406 (3.4)5
Title:The Right-Hand Shore
Authors:Christopher Tilghman
Other authors:Scott Sowers (Performer)
Info:MacMillan Audio (2012), Preloaded Digital Audio Player
Collections:Your library

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The Right-Hand Shore: A Novel by Christopher Tilghman



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Although it took a while for me to get into this novel, I loved the author's style. I felt the love between the characters and couldn't help but root for them. The combination of historic relevance and deep character development made this novel a wonderful read. Now, I'm going to eat a juicy peach! ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 28, 2019 |
Loved everything about this except the plot point regarding the murder of one of the characters and the eventual solution. I would have been much happier if that had been left unsolved and more ambiguous. But oh my gosh, this is a book to just fall into and taken away to another place and time. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
The story starts as an interesting story about a woman attempting to find a male heir to inherit the legacy of The Retreat, a huge enclave in Maryland. The woman is dying of cancer, and before she reaches her decision, the reader journeys into the history of the house and land. The trek becomes tedious, and the reader quickly loses interest and wanders misty-eyed in the haze of endless characters. I felt the book would hold hidden merits and therefore attempted to keep to the path. The reading proved to be an exercise in futility. ( )
  delphimo | Jan 12, 2014 |
This is a prequel to Tilghman's acclaimed Mason's Retreat, which I did not read. It tells the story of a doomed - cursed? Maryland plantation and the aristocratic Catholic family that owns it. In the beginning of the novel, we see the family patriarch sell his slaves south in anticipation of emancipation, hoping to make the best of a bad investment. Ophelia witnesses the sale and is haunted by it, growing to hate the land that in her mind was linked with such an outrage. She tries to rise her daughter to likewise hate the land, as her husband tries to raise their son Thomas to tend it. Both parents are surprised with how their children turn out.

It took me about 30 pages to get into this story, which I was afraid was going to be one of those family sagas that are about as interesting as someone else's family tree. Then it suddenly took for me, and I enjoyed the leisurely pace, the strong sense of place, and the complex characters. My book group's reaction to the story was a collective meh, mostly because of the pacing and the excessive attention to agricultural issues, but I appreciated the narrative structure and cared about the characters. ( )
  CasualFriday | Jul 8, 2013 |
Mary Bayly is dying. She is dying quickly and painfully. And she has no close family to whom to leave her ancestral plantation, Mason's Retreat. She's determined that this land, which may or may not carry a curse, needs to go to a Mason (Mary's own mother was a Mason) and so she has searched out the descendants closest to the original immigrant owner and intends to interview them to determine which should be left the gift and burden that is Mason's Retreat. Edward Mason is one of the two relatives and he has come down to the plantation on the banks of the Chester River in Maryland intending to meet and charm Miss Mary, have the land assured him, and be back in his office in a few hours. What he doesn't count on is an extended tour of the property, the teasing out of the ghosts that still inhabit the land, and the whole truth of the Mason and Bayly clans as they struggled with their own visions of what Mason's Retreat is, a dairy being only the latest incarnation per Miss Mary's ideas. Although the novel takes place in one day, overseer Mr. French tells Edward Mason, who has already been recognized as morally small by Mary, the tale of Mason's Retreat over many years, starting on the eve of the Civil War and ending in 1923, the present day of the novel.

Mary's grandfather, Duke Mason, seeing what the stirrings of war were blowing his way, chose to sell his slaves further down south rather than lose their value to the war, tearing families apart and it is perhaps this act that scarred the land, imbuing it with a curse. It certainly scarred Mary's mother, Ophelia, who spent her adult life running from her heritage. But it was her luck to marry a man, Wyatt Bayly, who had a passion for the land and who strove mightily to turn Mason's Retreat into acres upon acres of peaches, carefully tending trees and learning all the science behind their cultivation. As his vision of orchards stretching down the banks of the river blossomed into reality, his family shattered and broke into pieces that only ever maintained a polite distance from then on out. Ophelia took Mary to Baltimore to live and left her young son Thomas in Wyatt's care.

Thomas and his best friend, a young black boy named Randall, ran around the plantation almost like feral creatures. They were so close as children that they were never referred to individually. And trailing them, sneaking behind them always was Randall's younger sister Beal, a simply striking child who would grow into a beautiful young woman. When Wyatt Bayly stopped to notice that his oft forgotten son needed some structure and schooling, he hired a tutor to educate Thomas offering to include Randall in this school for two to make the loss of freedom more palatable to Thomas as his intended heir. But Randall turned out to be the smarter, more intuitive, and better student of the two. This, coupled with Thomas' growing interest in Beal (a mutual interest actually) drove a wedge between the boys as they grew into men. And as the peach trees and the land of Mason's Retreat itself came ever closer to disaster, so too did the lives of these three so intimately entwined since childhood. Meanwhile Mary led her own life between France and Baltimore, although always hewing back towards Mason's Retreat. She participated in her mother's search for a husband for herself until forced by circumstances to sacrifice all she is supposed to desire and to take up the reins of her ultimately inescapable heritage.

The writing here is lush and descriptive but sometimes there's altogether too much of this normally good thing. The land overtakes the story, standing out far beyond the frankly rather colorless characters. The story is told very distantly, making it hard to get engaged in it as it unfolds, perhaps because it is being recounted to a disinterested outsider. Although I really wanted to like it, the slow pace and lengthy exposition made this one a trudge for me. The themes of racism, love, religion, and the challenge of the land seemed as if they deserved a more powerful vehicle. Neither the slight mystery of the boy's body found on the farm and mentioned in passing several times before the narrative caught up to the actual tale nor the draw of forbidden interracial love could keep my attention from wandering as I set this down repeatedly throughout my reading of it. Lyrical and yet flat, this one just wasn't for me. ( )
  whitreidtan | Sep 13, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374203482, Hardcover)

A masterful novel that confronts the dilemmas of race, family, and forbidden love in the wake of America’s Civil War

Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason’s Retreat, Christopher Tilghman returns to the Mason family and the Chesapeake Bay in The Right-Hand Shore.

It is 1920, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary Bayly, the current owner of the legendary Mason family estate, the Retreat. Miss Mary is dying. She plans to give the Retreat to the closest direct descendant of the original immigrant owner that she can find. Edward believes he can charm the old lady, secure the estate and be back in Baltimore by lunchtime.

Instead, over the course of a long day, he hears the stories that will forever bind him and his family to the land. He hears of Miss Mary’s grandfather brutally selling all his slaves in 1857 in order to avoid the reprisals he believes will come with Emancipation. He hears of the doomed efforts by Wyatt Bayly, Miss Mary’s father, to turn the Retreat into a vast peach orchard, and of Miss Mary and her brother growing up in a fractured and warring household. He learns of Abel Terrell, son of free blacks who becomes head orchardist, and whose family becomes intimately connected to the Baylys and to the Mason legacy.

The drama in this richly textured novel proceeds through vivid set pieces: on rural nineteenth-century industry; on a boyhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; on the unbreakable divisions of race and class; and, finally, on two families attempting to save a son and a daughter from the dangers of their own innocent love. The result is a radiant work of deep insight and peerless imagination about the central dilemma of American history.


The Right-Hand Shore is a New York Times Notable Book of 2012.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:16 -0400)

While visiting the dying owner of the family's estate in order to secure his inheritance, Edward hears stories about his family and land, from an ancestor's 1857 sale of soon-to-be emancipated slaves to a doomed effort to cultivate a peach orchard.

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