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Letter from Point Clear

3.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  272 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
The older Owen siblings--Ellen and Morris--long ago left behind their gracious family home in Alabama in favor of the northeast. But when they learn that their wayward baby sister Bonnie has moved back into the old place with her new husband, a local evangelical preacher, they head home to perform a rescue. Upon their arrival, they find Bonnie reformed, and pregnant. But s ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Picador (first published August 7th 2007)
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Aug 30, 2007 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First thing I've read that has- as one component to the story- a married gay couple that doesn't exist solely for comic relief in the story. But enough already with independently wealthy characters. Why do authors do this? Wishful thinking? Is employment counterproductive in plot development? Characters can't realistically take the long, introspection-oriented vacations that are central to some of these stories if they had real jobs, I suppose.
Dec 22, 2008 Betsy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. The opening setting is eastern Massachusetts where I grew up and the characters seemed familiar, but as I read deeper into the book it became trite and predictable. There was no deep exploration of themes and the characters seemed like caricatures. I was really disappointed in it.
Very enjoyable, just this side of too easy. McFarland offers up characters who are immensely likable and sympathetic (maybe too much so?). You may find yourself exasperated by actions, but it's nearly impossible to dislike any of actors. The novel is set early on in Cape Cod but moves quickly down to a beachfront manse outside of Mobile, Alabama. McFarland tosses out a charismatic evangelical preacher who is a dreamboat to boot, a witty & erudite gay professor and his two sisters, one fluffy ...more
May 21, 2008 Anya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still unsure of how I feel about this book overall. I really enjoyed the authors writing style, I found it easy to read. I enjoyed reading about the inner conflict of each conflict, as well as how the characters interact. I also enjoyed reading from different characters perspective. What I disliked about the book is that nothing happens. Sure, two people traveled across part of the country, but really, it was ALL dialog. It was talk, talk and more talk. I was ready to pull my hair out at one ...more
Lee D'anna
So what happens when two much older siblings receive who years ago escaped (were banished?) receive a letter from their younger sister (whose history of screwing up every relationship and career she has attempted) to let them know she is now happily married and settled into the family estate in Alabama? Of course, they high tail it down there, albeit reluctantly, to see for themselves if the new husband (a charismatic and younger evangelical preacher with no formal training) is really just after ...more
Dec 21, 2007 Alicia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this novel, a woman and her brother receive news that their wayward younger sister has suddenly married an evangelical preacher in their hometown in Alabama; the two make a trip down south to visit the newlyweds, but problems arise when the preacher is informed that the brother is happily married to another man. I really enjoyed this novel--it really captures the feel of the slow days at the end of summer, and the small human dramas McFarland captures are very compelling. A/A-.
Jun 29, 2009 Elysabeth rated it did not like it
It sucks when you read a book that blows your mind (like The Monsters of Templeton) and then follow it up with something that blows. This is one of those cases. This book moved slowly and tediously, and not much happened. The uber-wealth was over the top, and I didn't like ANY of the characters, except for maybe Macy, the housekeeper. I don't think I'll be reading anything else by this author. And, I'm on the hunt for a GOOD book.
Jan 16, 2008 Carol rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Can't think of who
Despite the good reviews in the media, I was disappointed when I finally read the book. I did not know what the primary area of conflict was placed -- the marital relationship of the older sister, the acerbic tongue'd gay brother's relationship, or the worries over the youngest daughter's new marriage and its potential implication on the family wealth. I finished it, but don't see the message of the story.
Feb 20, 2008 Christi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-reads
it was a good story with interesting characters
there is no "big resolution" at the end of the book and I like that change from the usual "everything neatly wraps up on the last 5 pags"
you are left hanging wondering what is next for the characters and how they changed and grew from the experience in Alabama

Jun 19, 2008 Tiffany rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Someone looking for a good character-driven story
Recommended to Tiffany by: Newton Books book club
This is one of those books whose plot is so deliciously predictable. All the things I wanted to have happen actually happen in this book. It was as if I were writing and reading it at the same time. But as is the usual irony with getting exactly what you want, I finished the book feeling kind of unsatisfied.
Dec 02, 2007 Molly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Family dynamics were somewhat interesting. Gay, straight and religious ideas were explored. Overall, too soap opera-ish.
Aug 16, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“As far as I can tell, camp takes everything that’s already hard about life and makes it harder” (3).
“…further evidence that most people think quotation marks are for decoration and don’t have any particular meaning” (4).
“ ‘But I don’t think I’ll phone her. I prefer vaguely to specifically worrying’” (20).
“ ‘I agree,’ Richard said, continuing to eat meticulously, tediously, the way one had to eat rainbow trout” (22).
“He opened the freezer and began emptying ice trays into a stainless steel mixin
Sep 04, 2008 Ashley rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I don't really know what to say about the book. I picked it up because it is about where I grew up. My parents were both born and raised in Point Clear. I just couldn't help but be curious why a whole book needed to be written about it. I caved, I bought it. Don't read it if you need action, rather than just enjoying a glimpse into the family dynamics of three siblings from the area. I liked it because I could relate to the area, imagine exactly what the scenes were, laugh at the descriptions of ...more
Letter from Point Clear explores the relationship between three siblings: Ellen, the oldest and a poet, Morris, the middle child who is also gay and Bonnie, the youngest who went home to care for their father before he died. A few months after their father died Ellen receives a letter from Bonnie letting her know that she is now married to a pastor of a local church. Since this is very out of character for Bonnie and she has notoriously bad taste in men, Ellen and Morris go back to their hometow ...more
Jun 27, 2009 Little rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So Morris and Ellen are the sympathetic characters, except a lot of times they aren't. They're caustic and obnoxious, and I don't sympathize with their attitudes at all. And Pastor is sort of the antagonist, except a lot of the time he's the character I relate to. Everybody is much more complicated and nuanced than the surface level conflict would indicate. And in a lot of ways, every issued this book touches on, it sort of skirts around. Nobody actually deals with anything. Instead, they bring ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice writing and good characters, very little plot. I didn't mind so much that there was no real resolution, but I sure wanted something more permanent by way of change to the preacher character--he was so young and immature. It didn't make any sense that Bonnie married him. The author's good writing masks a lot of stuff that just isn't believable. Finally I agree with what others wrote about the independent wealth. That makes the characters a lot less accessible to the average person (ie me).

Jun 16, 2008 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Andrew Sullivan
What happens when an evangelical preacher from Alabama marries into a family with nonbelievers and lives in conflict with evangelical Alabama traditions? Does everyone have to hide their discomfort with the in-laws? Or can there be an earnest and frank dialog without compromising first principles?

I enjoyed the book, although it felt like a short story that got stretched. I particularly liked the way the characters crossed the chasm of belief and faith as respectfully as they did.
Strike 3. This the 3rd book in a row that I had to stop reading. This time it was just because I didn't like the storyline. I wasn't interested in a woman who wanted time away from her husband, or her sister who married an evangelical preacher. Said preacher was no doubt going to try to sway the two sisters' brother who was gay. Way too many other things I want to read
Jul 15, 2009 ingrid rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wish I could remember where the recommendation for this came from! I recall a comparison to To Kill A Mocking Bird??? What a laugh! Two adult sibs, 1 a gay male, the other a disaffected married female go to visit their screw-up sister in AL after she writes a letter that she has married a (young, attractive) evangelical style preacher. Characters kind of 1 dimensional.r
RoseMary Achey
Three siblings reunite after youngest sister marries an evangelic minister. They return to their childhood home to set her straight only to discover they are equally dysfunctional.
I do love McFarland's writing style, the story flows nicely, yet the character development is a bit lacking for me in this book. They seem a little shallow, but perhaps this is intentional since they are so rich that they only work if they choose. Also a few of the story lines seem frivolous, never expanded, with no reason for being there.
Gypsy Lady
Apr 28, 2010 Gypsy Lady marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
With its finely evoked tableaus from Wellfleet to the Alabama coast, "Letter From Point Clear" is a gratifying, emotionally resonant novel -- its heart and longing steeped in the Old South, its sensibility years and miles beyond.

Gail Caldwell is chief book critic of the Globe. She can be reached at

Sep 05, 2007 Carole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree with the "rich" comment. But that aside, this book can certainly lead to some interesting discussion on religion and homosexuality. The book does let the characters act noramlly. I like the way the siblings called each other on things but where supportive if needed. Outside of all the money they seemed pretty typical.
Jamie Campbell
Nov 29, 2007 Jamie Campbell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone with a sly sense of humor
A charming family story with a motley cast of smart, searching, flawed adults. Its understated portrayal of the complicated and often anti-climactic struggle for personal and family redemption makes it worth reading; the petulant and witty reflections of Morris, one of the main characters, makes it priceless.
May 26, 2008 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: Oprah Magazine August 07
Shelves: faith, fiction
Featured in O magazine, Aug 2007.
A great summer read: interesting characters, great locale. A brother and sister head south to "save" their little sister from her marriage to an evangelical preacher. The preacher is set on saving everyone, especially his wife's gay brother. No one is unchanged by the encounter.
Mar 28, 2012 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was on my book of books to read because somewhere I read that this family of three kids was like Salinger's Glass Family. It did have a similar style of prose... I guess. The kids, now grown, were very bright. It was Salinger though. I didn't like, or maybe I just didn't get, the ending.
Sep 27, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. One of my favorite quotes:

"...she generally wanted to think about things before she talked about them, while he was more inclined to learn what he thought from what he heard himself say."

The two characters mentioned are a brother and sister and he is the one reflecting in the quote.
Jul 18, 2011 Barbara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book began very slowly. I was intrigued with the siblings' feeling the need to rescue their sister. Pastor is intriguing and I felt like the most changed throughout the course of the book. However, the ending fell flat for me. It didn't seem like there was closure for all that had taken place.
Jun 25, 2008 Pattie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those OK with a slow summer read
Shelves: fiction
Was trying to think what this reminded me of, and it was Ann Tyler, only the characters are richer and have exquisite taste. An enjoyable book if you're okay with character-driven novels (don't look for a lot of action) I'm not sure I understood the Ellen character, but liked the others.
Jul 02, 2008 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Siblings return to their Southern hometown to rescue their younger sister from her marriage to an evangelical preacher, only to find their expectations turned completely upside down in this novel that reveals the common ground shared by these flawed yet captivating characters.

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A 1975 Brooklyn College graduate, McFarland also attended and later taught at Goddard College and Stanford University. At Stanford, McFarland worked as teacher of creative writing from 1981 to 1986. His fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories and The New Yorker. McFarland is married Michelle Simons, and together they have two children. He lives with his family in Massachussetts.
More about Dennis McFarland...

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