Celebrated children’s book author Agnes Lee is determined to secure her legacy—to complete what she knows will be the final volume of her pseudonymously written Franklin Square novels; and even more consuming, to permanently protect the peninsula of majestic coast in Maine known as Fellowship Point. To donate the land to a trust, Agnes must convince shareholders to dissolve a generations-old partnership. And one of those shareholders is her best friend, Polly.
Polly Wister has led a different kind of life than Agnes: that of a well-off married woman with children, defined by her devotion to her husband, a philosophy professor with an inflated sense of stature. She strives to create beauty and harmony in her home, in her friendships, and in her family. Polly soon finds her loyalties torn between the wishes of her best friend and the wishes of her three sons—but what is it that Polly wants herself?
Agnes’s designs are further muddied when an enterprising young book editor named Maud Silver sets out to convince Agnes to write her memoirs. Agnes’s resistance cannot prevent long-buried memories and secrets from coming to light with far-reaching repercussions for all.
I have written four books of fiction, Naked to the Waist (1991), In the Gloaming (2000), Think of England (2002) and Fellowship Point (2022). I write everyday at least for a few minutes. I also teach in the English department and the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark. I have learned so much from teaching! I'm working on a new novel, a sequel to my short story "In the Gloaming." That story was made into two films, one by HBO (it's available on Amazon Prime) and one by Trinity Playhouse. I always have a cat or a dog or both sitting near me when I work.
Fellowship Point by Alice Elliot Dark is a Scribner / Marysue Rucci Books publication.
Oh, how I wish there were more books like this one!
Agnes, made a name for herself writing children's books, and is now in her eighties. She has been approached by an eager young woman, named Maud, about working on a memoir, but her mind is on other things… Namely, her health and the future of Fellowship Point.
Polly, a traditional wife and mother, has been a lifelong friend of Agnes's. Together, they are now working to protect the Maine peninsula of Fellowship Point from development- something Polly's own son, James, is in favor of- which puts her in between a rock and a hard place.
As the story progresses, we are given many insights into Agnes and Polly’s long friendship, their personality differences, and how they complement each other. But it is not until Maud begins prodding Agnes about that memoir that the story begins to take on another dynamic, one that paints Agnes in a new light for readers.
Be prepared for some stunning revelations and heartbreak, but know that healing and closure will come, along with understanding and positive character growth, proving that it is never too late to see things from another person’s perspective, and to view things through their eyes.
I was on vacation when I decided to read this book. This vacation turned out to be extremely busy, and exhausting, with very little time to properly focus on reading.
I started thinking that maybe I should put this book aside for a while because it is a very slow mover and not the best choice for me under the circumstances. Not only that, the slow pace was not the only problem I encountered, as the flow was often choppy and switches between past and present were occasionally jarring-
But I stuck with it, though at times it felt forced, and my enthusiasm was tepid, at best. But, as they say- good things come to those who wait!
I’m VERY glad I stuck with it- because my patience and fortitude paid HUGE dividends in the end. At its core this is a lovely, heartwarming story about the affirmations and rewards of deep friendship. These are characters I will think of for a long time to come!!
Overall, this is one of those ‘quiet’ novels that sneaks up on you and steals your heart before you even knew what hit you. I think it is a good story to curl up with on long, lazy summer days, or to lose yourself in on a quiet winter day when one can fully appreciate the nuances of the story.
It’s a beautiful story and deserves all the undivided attention you can give it- You’ll be glad you did!
Audiobook….read by Cassandra Campbell …..19 hours and 33 minutes
I felt as through I was sifting through sand …… occasionally I was gifted with some plastic toys.
I can’t listen to another 14 MORE HOURS of such overly descriptive and fatiguing prose. (DNF)…. 6 hours was enough!
Cassandra Campbell is usually great - a terrific audio book reader -but she couldn’t save me from feeling drained from the yawnsome monochromatic sentences. The writing lacks variety in rhythm. With no adventure and little excitement—I started to scratch my head with writing like this: “Each family would bring their own chair, set it down, of and sit in a circle”. Or…. “The first summer in 1987 was warm and dry… Or…. “They all liked walking in the woods. Or…. “The ducks were sitting ducks”. Or…. “The gulls aren’t bad — but I want them gone”.
The ‘start’ of this book was promising. It established the friendship of a couple of old geezer-ladies….,both 80….lifetime friends…. but soon I was feeling annoyed from how often meaningfulness the writing was.
The message about land ownership in America is valid — but being talked to — to death — was nails-on-a-chalkboard maddening slow and dull.
I’m soooo sorry — I seriously was interested in reading this book —but it was too colorless — and flat for me to honestly enjoy.
Agnes Lee, a never-married author, and Polly Wister, a devoted wife and mother, have known each other since birth. They both were born into affluent Philadelphia Quaker families. In the 1870s, Agnes’ great-grandfather purchased 145 acres on the Maine coast and named the area Fellowship Point. He eventually built five houses for his family, his brother’s family, and three friends. There was also a home for the servants. The homes were individually owned, but the majority of the land was owned by an association with very specific rules on membership and dissolution. In the year 2000, a local developer set his sites on the land. Agnes, who is in her 80s, wants nothing more than to protect it from commercial exploitation. Unfortunately, Polly’s oldest son who will inherit her association voting rights, is very friendly with the developer. Polly is torn between her friendship with Agnes and her love for her son. Agnes’ cousin who is the third association voting member is also at odds with the two women after he accuses one of their friends of a crime.
Agnes is well-known for a children’s book series called “When Nan” based on the various adventures of a ten-year-old girl. A young book editor, Maud Silver, tries to convince Agnes to write her memoirs to coincide with an upcoming repackaging of the When Nan series. Unbeknown to anyone, including, Polly, Agnes has been keeping a secret that she had planned on taking to her grave. Maud is a single mother to a daughter named Clemence and is also caring for her mentally ill mother. Over the next two years, Maud’s tenacity convinces Agnes to write the memoir, setting the stage for the author’s secret to be discovered. And through Maud and Agnes’ friendship, another secret is revealed that surprises all of the women.
If I had realized that Fellowship Point is 592 pages long, I probably would not have requested an Advanced Reader copy. I typically find long books to have too much fluff. In this case, I found Polly’s storyline to be mundane at times. I would have made her a minor character and focused on Agnes. That being said, Alice Elliott Dark is a gifted writer. I look forward to reading more of her works.
4-stars. Many thanks to Scribner and NetGalley for my advanced reader copy. This book will be published on July 5, 2022.
Fellowship Point is a marvel. Intricately constructed, utterly unique, this novel set on the coast of Maine is filled with insights about writing, about the perils and freedoms of aging, about the great mysteries, as well as the pleasures, of life. The story about the relationships between three women unfolds, as life does, through joys and losses, confrontations and confessions, with twists along the way that change your perception of all that came before. This is a world is so closely and acutely observed that I felt I lived in it. I was sorry to leave.
This sprawling saga featuring two octogenarian protagonists reads like a 19th century novel. Agnes Lee and Polly Wister have been friends their whole lives, growing up alongside each other in Philadelphia Quaker families and summering together in Maine. Agnes is beloved by the world as a bestselling children’s author, but not a living soul—including Polly—knows she also pens the popular and critically praised Franklin Square series. Polly knows Agnes sees her as a pushover, especially when it comes to her family, but Polly never lets on she’s wiser than her friend gives her credit for. When an enterprising (and nosy) young editor begins pestering Agnes to write a memoir, she sets in motion a chain of events that tests the women’s lifelong friendship, and threatens to expose the long-buried secrets each has so carefully kept from the other. If you want a big, rich, and immersive novel to sink into, this 592-pager is just the ticket.
Who have you loved in your life? Agnes and Polly are best friends for decades. They also are part owners of a land trust for Fellowship Point. As the two draw nearer to the end of their lives, they are determined to keep the point from greedy developers. But will the other owners support them? And what about Agnes and her latest novel -- will the words ever come? Polly and her husband Dick are facing some health and neighborhood issues. Life is busy. Maud, one of Agnes's editors is pushing for a memoir. Agnes would prefer to keep her secrets. One of my favorite part of this book was reading the recollections of her life that Agnes had put down in notebooks. This is a book you sip slowly. It is full of beauty in nature and in relationships. The cover speaks volumes.
Thank you to Scribner and NetGally for a DRC in exchange for an honest review. This is my 500th NetGalley Review!
Swept away. That's how I felt reading Fellowship Point. It's an immersive read in the way of Austen and Hardy, Rosamund Pilcher and Colleen McCullough, with the grounded New England sensibilities of Elizabeth Strout and Edith Wharton. It is a celebration of old women and the lives they have lived and nurtured, the humans they have raised and the humanity they represent.
Agnes Lee and Polly Wister have been friends their entire eighty-year lives. Born into wealthy Philadelphia Quaker families, their decades have been easeful but complex. Defiantly single Agnes, informed in her twenties that she could not count on family income to support her, turned to writing a series of bestselling children's books based on a child she had once known. She also anonymously pens a series of novels that elegantly skewers Philadelphia society with biting social commentary; not even her editor knows her true identity. Polly takes a more conventional route, marrying and raising a family, although her obtuse philosophy professor husband depends on her inheritance to keep them flush.
Both women, along with assorted cousins and eventually adult children, summer every year on a pristine Maine peninsula known as Fellowship Point. Once sacred land to a series of indigenous tribes, Fellowship Point was founded as a family compound in the 1800s by the Philadelphia Quakers —Agnes and Polly's forebears. The land, held together by an association, is now being eyed for development. Agnes and Polly fear that the next generation is simply waiting for them to die so they can cash in.
With clear-eyed empathy and wit, beautiful prose, and delightful storytelling, Alice Elliott Dark crafts a rich and rewarding plot. It weaves deftly through numerous subplots, moving back in time to knit the past seamlessly and inevitably with the present. This was a novel I rushed through my day to return to each afternoon and evening, eager to follow the characters and their stories.
There are so many layers and themes to this family drama: grief, aging, wealth, privilege, justice, the scars and joys of childhood, literature, feminism, what it means to love and be loved, legacy, mental illness, trauma, the environment — all set against a fairy-tale like landscape of fog-soaked beaches and wildflower strewn meadows.
Do yourself a favor: break away from attention-snapping social media, set aside click-bait journalism, forgo easy payoff, formulaic novels and be transported to a world where there is time to reflect, learn, create and love.
Holy Old Ladies! This may be a lifetime best read for me. It resonated in a way that I’ve been waiting for for a long time now. How refreshing to be led by brilliant sparkling old ladies through this journey! It has been so fresh and freeing.
If you read my reviews you know they and I flair to the dramatic. I have probably said a million times I found my book. But no, I take it all back. THIS ONE IS MY BOOK.
The following excerpts are all for greedy me so I can reread them when necessary. This book is long. You might feel like you’re wading in sand but stick thee with it.
People change, Agnes said. It ain’t over til it’s over. You may quote me on that.
That, more than anything, describes aging to me —the letting go of one activity after the next, with no fanfare. Just realizing later that the last time has come and gone.
You had children, which is a feat of long-term thinking if there ever were one.
There was nothing to replace an old friend who knew everything, who spent enough time in the childhood home to know the atmosphere and how emotions and silences transpired—to know how the other had really grown up.
Polly had often heard Agnes say that everyone had specialties when it came to others. Some people loved celebration, some loved funerals, some people liked taking care of the ill.
But I will tell you now for future reference—no one wants to be eighty-one, and at a stage of being a potential liability. No one wants age to be the most important thing about her. You won’t like being this old when you are, and have your children explaining to you what is right.
Prayer isn’t necessary. Prayer can come in between God and the truth. Nothing is necessary. All already happened, all is present, and that is all.
I had the thought that I should help him more than judge him, and realized I was falling apart. Judgment is my home base.
Remember how you always said there is a parallel universe to ours where everything is as it should be?
They were too old not to be friends. Fallings-out were for those who had time to meet new people.
What I have learned is that grace and love are offered all the time, in every new moment, at every glimpse of the sky, or dawn of a day that has never before existed…we are free, always, to accept what is offered; it is we who don’t recognize this. That is our free will.
There wasn’t time for withholding, not in this short life when you were only given to know a few people, to have a true exchange with one or two.
Drink when you are thirsty and eat when you are hungry. Know yourself. Don’t overstep. Reach your arms out to your sides and as far as they can go. Make contact at that point. Go no further.
Fellowship Point is one of those novels that requires slowing down, slipping into the narrative as into a deep, languorous river, and submitting to the drift. Like few other novels I've read, Fellowship Point rewards readerly humility with an absolute feast.
The rich interior lives of the characters are told with intimacy, so close that I could find myself in each person, though I was unlike any of them, really. (Two had over 50 years on me.) Dark finds the common thread in our humanity and plies it together so tightly I could hardly find where I ended and the book began. Fellowship Point is not told in stream-of-consciousness, but it's what stream-of-consciousness has always aspired to be; it manages to get the point across without indulgence or confusion.
The last novel that spoke this deeply to me about friendship was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I read over two years ago. There was a lot else going on in Fellowship Point, but the friendship of Agnes and Polly remains a strong core. So many characters in here that I will not forget, because they are so realistic. The way Dark captures grief, aging, longing, privacy, intimacy, and more still has a hold on my imagination.
I feel so spoiled as a reader with Fellowship Point. It was such a marvelous feast and I will love re-reading it someday. I am used to only having a few such experiences a year, and reading Fellowship Point so close to City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell has me reeling a bit. If I encounter a lot of duds in the coming months I'll know statistics are evening out these mountaintop reads.
The dust jacket did make me laugh. "Fellowship Point reads like a classic nineteenth-century novel...but it is entirely contemporary in the themes it explores: a deep and empathic interest in women's lives; the repercussions of class; the struggle to protect the natural world; and a reckoning with intimacy, history, and posterity." Methinks someone needs to go back and read those Victorian doorstoppers because there are reams of nineteenth-century novels on those very topics that do them just as much justice as Dark does. It remains abundantly clear that marketers, not readers or writers, pen blurbs.
This is a very good and well-written book, but by the halfway point (maybe 1/3) I found myself wishing things would just hurry up and move along. I liked the story and the characters but it felt like we were being spoon-fed their every action for every day (this is hyperbole, it did do a lot of time jumps. But damn, it still felt like molasses). And it might have something to do with the age of the characters, but I had to keep reminding myself it was taking place in 2000 and not 1950.
All in all, a really good book that I'm sure lots of people will enjoy. But don't be surprised if you need to set it aside a few times to read books with a bit of a faster pace.
It's been a while since I attempted such a long book. This is an old fashioned book in some ways and won't be for everyone, but I loved it and it will stay with me. It's beautifully written; reads almost like a 19th-century novel. Every character is fully fleshed out even if they appear only briefly. And yet the themes are very current: conservation, feminism, decisions about caregiving, decisions to remain chaste. There are stories within stories and secrets within secrets. The main story is about Agnes, an elderly writer with cancer, who chose to live alone all her life, and Polly, her lifelong best friend who is widowed during the course of the narrative, and the sanctuary of an unspoiled tract of land in Maine where they have always summered and which they want to turn into an official nature preserve, despite resistance from Polly’s adult children and other residents of the area. They are from Philadelphia and Quakers and occasionally break into thees and thous. There’s also a subplot about Maud, a single mother who is an editorial assistant and wants to get Agnes to write her memoirs. Maud has a severely depressed mother who becomes close to catatonic during the course of the book. Maud moves her to a hospital in Philadelphia at Agnes’s suggestion, and winds up becoming closer and closer to Agnes and Polly. And in the end, much to my surprise, it all ties up neatly in a bow. I was surprised by how satisfying that was. The one complaint I have is that it dragged a bit in the middle. And also that Agnes's diary was a bit painful to read.
Fellowship Point was persuasively recommended by the peerless Brandon Taylor in his newsletter; it’s likely not a book I would have picked up, or even heard of, otherwise. This is a long, sprawling story whose central figure is 80-year-old writer Agnes, successful author of a series of bestselling children’s books and a set of pseudonymous adult novels, both based on people from her real life. The story surveys Agnes’s past as well as the life of her best friend, Polly, and several of their relatives and neighbours. The writing about old age is fantastic, devoid of cliché, and Agnes is a staggeringly good character. Polly and Dick’s marriage is brilliantly drawn, in all its wonder and banality. There were points at which I felt Alice Elliott Dark had pinned down something essential about human existence in a few breathtaking lines... but then there were pages and pages, even full chapters, I could happily have skipped. The character of Maud, an ambitious young publishing exec who persuades Agnes to write a memoir, feels from the start like she exists solely to move the plot along, a suspicion that is borne out repeatedly by events later in the book. I also found some of the dialogue a bit stilted.
I cried twice during the final stretch of Fellowship Point – once at a moment of revelation that is devastating for Agnes (with her devastation portrayed so powerfully), and again at the very last line. But within the same stretch there is also a cheap, silly plot twist that feels more like something from a soap opera than a serious novel. I find it difficult to say whether I think the book is worth reading, especially as it’s almost 600 pages, a significant investment of time for any reader. There are certain moments I will carry with me. Yet I’m no more than lukewarm about the thing as a whole.
How ironic, that this beautifully written, compelling, layered novel, “Fellowship Point”, by Alice Elliott Dark, begins with the character of Agnes Lee in the throes of Writers Block! For I was immediately engrossed in this perfectly paced story of two life-long friends, Agnes and Polly, as their past and present unfolds in the fashion of the familiar “Interconnected Families in Summer Houses with Generational Secrets” genre.
Just because it’s been done before, doesn’t make it any less fun! Curl up on the porch swing and enjoy!
Agnes is a writer, never married. She has published a set of very popular children’s books that feature a plucky nine-year-old girl, and under a pseudonym she has published a set of novels about five women across six decades of friendship.
Polly is wife to Dick, mother to three sons and a daughter. She is pretty much the opposite of Agnes; she is self-effacing, ever helpful, often subjugating her will to the comfort (or delusions) of those she loves, especially to Dick (whose name is no accident).
Enter Maud, a young single-mother/book editor who wants Agnes to write a memoir. Maud represents the new wave feminists who celebrate both equality and differences. She is also dealing with her mother who has significant mental health issues.
(So the archetypes are that Agnes has led a life centered around her career, Polly has led a life centered around her family, and Maud is trying to balance the two.)
Both Polly and Agnes grew up in summer homes on a peninsula in Maine where, now in their Golden Years, they seek to protect the natural beauty and sanctuary of a place called Fellowship Point. In the year 2000, an old nemesis seeks to develop the Point thus spoiling its natural beauty and significantly perturbing the wildlife there. The dilemma: they need all five families who have homes there to agree to leave the land to a Trust.
I especially enjoyed Agnes’ musings on writing as she contemplates her writer’s block. As a life-long reader, I have always been fascinated (and continually impressed) by what writers do. They use words – simple marks on a page – to communicate ideas, descriptions, emotions, life itself – with strangers, who look at these “marks on paper” and enter entirely new universes/times/places/lives/points of view. Sometimes it feels like magic!
I have very little in common with the lives Agnes and Polly have lived, yet Alice Elliott Dark has opened them up and let me peek in. It would be easy to dismiss most of the cast of characters in “Fellowship Point” as privileged, elitist, snobs, but that would only be scratching the surface and Dark deftly goes beyond that to reveal lives lived with joys and sorrows, secrets and accomplishments, acts of both cruelty and grace, all of which are uniquely human.
What a sprawling, wonderful story about an opinionated, often harsh, affluent 82-year-old woman and her friend. These were women I was sure I would not relate to, because, no, I am not a wealthy woman in my 80s, and no, I’m not of Quaker heritage. But what I do share with Agnes is her humanity, her respect and compassion for her friend, and her love of place, her love of nature, her willingness to fight for it.
I also am a writer and greatly appreciated the character’s insights about creativity and writing (she is an author). So many quote-worthy tidbits:
What does it mean to me to be a writer – that I have found a method of thinking that reliably moves me forward. That I have developed a system of logic that resembles reason while containing my emotions, which are, by nature, unreasonable. That I know I can express myself clearly if and when I need to. Above all, that I have a private space where I can wander and play and dream. Where I can be scathing and cruel and reprehensible. Where I can love and expose myself completely without any interference from anyone other than my private projections. Writing is how I live even when I am not writing.
I write because I am a human being and to make art is to be fully human as distinct from other animals. Art is human. So am I.
The structure had a natural form like a tree – a trunk and its branches and leaves. The sentences were marvelously various. The words layered with meanings. The story is only a sleight of hand, a disguise for how the book is shaped, which is the real subject. You ask readers to follow a logic, a way of thinking, by giving them – me – a plot to wonder about. Yet it isn’t about the plot. Like all the best books and works of art, it’s about form ultimately…
While this is, indeed, a serious book about loss and risk and love, there are so many laugh-out-loud moments when the reader is in Agnes’s head – or blindsided by the things she says outright (things many of us likely think, but don’t verbalize to others). Such perfect characterization of the curmudgeonly old woman so strong in her convictions she scares many away.
I found the portrayal of Agnes and her friend, Polly, over time, to be particularly endearing and dramatically realistic – watching both come of age in the 1950s, one, a feminist ahead of her time, and the other, “the good wife,” who grows into her own. The skill with which Elliott Dark illuminates the historic tug and pull of familial obligation and ‘proper behavior’ expected of women is astounding.
I see a number of reviewers commenting on the pace of the book – the extraneous detail. And I wouldn’t disagree; this one is a whopper – just shy of 600 pages. It could have been shorter, for certain. Many details could have been edited out. That said, I made the decision to purchase this novel as an audiobook (in the hopes of re-sparking my reading enthusiasm, which has suffered some this year). I also made the decision to listen to this novel in stops and starts, and to take my time with it. It is that kind of book: one that you can walk away from for periods of time, but one you are also quite pleased to come back to. Like getting reacquainted with an old friend. You start to miss that friend after too long…
I think that method, for me, served this book well. The added, slow-simmer time truly cemented my relationship with the characters, and because I went slowly – the book spans 80+ years – I felt as if I was cultivating my relationship with them – that I actually grew to know them better. I can’t say if I’d have had the same experience reading the book, but this type of consumption was utterly delightful and led to a full experience. So many threads are woven into the book – some mysteries and revelations – and they all come together with precision.
Even though this novel is billed (more or less) as eco-fiction (and that was part of it), it’s really a novel about friendship – the deep, everlasting kind of friendship that we all clamor to access in our lives. It was heartwarming and endearing, and a book I won’t soon forget. If you allow yourself time with this book, especially if you’re listening to it in audio format, that slowed-down nurturing attention will be rewarded.
Well. The devil works hard, but publishing house marketing departments work harder. MAJOR SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. (Edited 8/19/22 to include spoiler tags and amend a plot criticism addressed by a commenter)
This book was sold to me by a review in Publisher's Weekly, which described the narrative themes as "...The families and their grudges and grievances fill a broad canvas, and within it Dark delves deeply into the relationships between Agnes and her work, humans and the land, mothers and children, and, most indelibly, the sustenance and joy provided by a long-held female friendship. It’s a remarkable achievement."
What I actually read was a bloated story full of half-sketched characters, half-conceived plots, and an awful lot of moralizing on subjects including (but not limited to) feminism, abortion, vegetarianism...none of which are bad topics, but in ~600 pages you get a bit tired of being preached at. I said I would reserve one-star ratings for books I actively hate, which feels mean, but the tedium I felt when I forced myself to get through this enormous tome and the anger I felt when I remembered I'd spent $14 on it makes me feel that the rating is justified.
The characters were little more than two dimensional—Agnes is a crotchety-old-lady stereotype, Polly is a sweet-old-lady stereotype—and the friendship between them never seemed terribly real or important. Sure, they'd known each other for a really long time, but they didn't actually feel super close. I thought this book would be a deep exploration of the way friendship shifts and changes as you get older; an examination of how a lifetime's worth of friendship can also breed a lifetime's worth of resentment and small grudges that come bubbling to the surface as one confront's one's own mortality. But, for me, this book did not deliver on these themes. An undue amount of page time was devoted to Maud (who, honestly, I just could not bring myself to care about), with the result that Agnes seemed closer to her than to Polly. Same with the relationship between Polly and Robert—after all of their correspondence their friendship felt deeper than Polly and Agnes' (and then it just gets brushed aside and forgotten, which is a separate issue).
But the most offensive thing to me about this book was the plot. You'd think, in a book of ~600 pages, that you'd find time to give some twists and turns, and eventually gather up the threads in satisfying conclusion, but nope—prepare for LONG PERIODS OF PEOPLE DOING NOTHING! SOLITARY REFLECTION that teases at information that will be INFO DUMPED on you later! REPETITIVE CONVERSATIONS!
For instance: Issues that are brought to the forefront in the first couple of chapters are then shelved for pages and pages and pages; when they are next mentioned, they are discussed in pretty much the same way as before, then shelved again, with absolutely no progress made.
I found the rest of the ending somewhat ridiculous.
The ending also fails to tie up plot threads. What really happened with Robert and Seela? We are led to believe throughout the entire book that
The plot also suffers from huge info dumps employed by the author. Agnes has written several volumes of journals in the form of letters to her sister who died relatively young. These accounts are, conveniently, extremely detailed and thorough, with blow-by-blow accounts of events. They read as activity logs, rather than confiding letters to your dead sister—and of course they do! They exist so that Maud can learn 80% of Agnes' history in one fell swoop, without the author having to do any heavy lifting.
I had to actively force myself to sit down and read this book, motivated by the fact that I was not allowed to start reading anything else until this one was done. I should say that I did enjoy the depiction of the relationship between Polly and Dick (and in fact I think Polly was my favorite character). It was a finely-drawn portrait of a marriage that is simultaneously supportive and loving, but also stifling and unhealthy. I also liked the stories of Agnes as a young woman, her struggles in a relationship with a man at the time, and how she felt she was being required to change—that definitely struck home. But the rest of the book—plot, characterization, writing quality—just did not deliver. What I am most annoyed about, though, is the false marketing surrounding this—the melodrama of the Fellowship Point plot reads like a bad episode of Eastenders, and should've been marketed as such. I'm very annoyed I wasted so much time and $14.
It’s very unfortunate that “Fellowship Point” is being plugged by Goodreads and a number of prominent reviewers. While the book is ostensibly about women’s power to shape their physical, cultural, and interpersonal space, it shuts its one Mad female character out of ALL space in the real world, choosing instead to cage her in a hospital. I understand “Fellowship Point” is written by an older author who took 20 years to write it, but her decision to shoehorn ableism into this book really diminished it. The feminist ideals that supposedly explain why “Fellowship Point” is worth reading (at over 500 pages) feel oddly and - and offensively - like relics from the early 2000’s. Has the author really not noticed how feminism has progressed over the past two decades? How it has been forced to accommodate disabled women, trans women, and women who aren’t White? Perhaps none of that mattered to the author, since she knew there would be a large audience among women in her age group who would flock to this book, eager for a rare opportunity to indulge their nostalgia for “Karen” feminism. But, younger and more progressive readers will not overlook the major shortcomings of “Fellowship Point”.
I had a difficult time getting into this book. I received a free copy and felt compelled to read it and write an appropriate review; however, after 130 pages, I can no longer continue to spend my time reading this book. The characters did not speak to me, too many clichés and not enough character development. Thus far, each scene more drawn out than needed and did not dig deep into why the character's are who they are. This book may be for people who enjoy a more lighthearted, easy read, but it is not for me.
Agnes and Polly’s lifelong friendship is filled with all the loves, secrets, betrayals, mistakes and longing that make up our own real-life friendships. I felt deeply connected to these women, and find myself often returning to and reflecting upon their disappointments and stalwart love. I love this book, and it will stay with me for a very long time.
I savored every beautiful second of this book. There were times when it felt a little indulgent (SO much is fit inside 600 pages) but by the time it got to the end, it all made sense and was worth it. Full body chills at the last line. Just wow! A work of art.
Just who were the people giving this stodgy, verbose tome 5 stars??? This is touted as a masterpiece??? A masterpiece in what? Your ability to navigate a dictionary so you can actually know what she is trying to convey to the reader??
Ok….so our author, Alice Elliott Dark, is an English teacher and probably has an extensive vocabulary (more like an over-used thesaurus), but this is so difficult to read that it comes off as being pretentious. The author and her characters are nothing more than pompous players in a tedious, dreary narrative.
Seriously…I have a vast vocabulary too; and I know the definition of plenty of “ten-dollar words”, but when I find that I have to consult my dictionary several times just to be able to understand one sentence, it is nothing more than a distraction and assassinates the flow of your reading. Likewise, it insults the reader’s intelligence.
I am definitely not the most intelligent woman in the room, but I am far from the most sluggish too. Where was your editor, Alice Elliot Dark??? She or he should have critiqued this appropriately and told you to redesign the book in its entirety.
Do NOT waste your time reading this. This was UTTER SHITE, and there are many more books available that deserve your precious attention.
I kept thinking that this book felt really long, and I noticed on here after reading it that it was almost 600 pages, so that explains why. I have no problem reading a longer novel when I'm interested in it, but unfortunately this wasn't the case. However, I also don't think I was the target demographic for this novel and can see my grandmother enjoying it. I did like Agnes' spirit and her friendship with Polly.
Kindly received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A brick of a novel and mostly compelling, about the long friendship between two women, and the place that means the most to both of them, Fellowship Point, as well as its history, set in multiple timelines, not all of it was believable but enjoyable nonetheless.
While I think it's possibly quite a bit longer than the story needs (and I lost a little steam in the second half), Fellowship Point is nevertheless very good. It's a story about families–both biological and created, about our relationship and responsibilities as stewards of the land, and about the capacity of the human spirit to survive tragedy and keep going.
And Agnes and Polly are perhaps the best octogenarian duo going.
I rarely finish a 600 page novel and want to immediately begin it again; “Fellowship Point” is one of those books. After about 1/3 of the way in, I turned each page with great anticipation of what I’d discover on the next two pages, but also with growing melancholy that I was creeping closer to the conclusion of the book. This is a sublime, completely engrossing and immersive tale of two best friends in their 80's who chose opposite paths in life - one is a mom and homemaker, one is a never married writer and feminist - but always remained best friends.
Through these two women, Dark tackles class issues; feminism; women's roles in the 20th/21st century; marriage; family - found and biological; Quaker practices; the concept of ownership; the environment; philosophy; and more. But the narrative is never weighed down by issues; the focus is almost always on how Agnes and Polly engage with these issues as they age from their 20's to the present time.
I will mention that I selected this book after I read a brilliant review of it in the NYT, but up to about the third or fourth chapter, I wondered if I was reading the same novel as the reviewer. The book was enjoyable, but not great. Yet, as the narrative progresses, the writing and the story became more complex, more nuanced; I was enthralled at and often floored by the artistry and talent of the author, how she created this, which each subsequent chapter. The book often saunters into philosophical territory, asking questions that Plato and Aristotle considered, and Dark’s beautiful - and harrowing- observations about the human condition find ample territory to roam with Agnes and Polly.
I think octogenarian characters are now my favorite characters; the first I encountered (I think) was Lady Slane in Sackville-West’s incredible novel, “All Passion Spent;” Polly, one of the primary narrators of “Fellowship Point,” is a literary descendent of her. Polly’s story is poignant, maddening, affirming, and filled with riches and insight; viewing her changes through decades of friendship and family life was a richly rewarding experience. Like every character in the novel, I loved her. (Also: did I love that Dark references Vita explicitly in the text, via Polly’s character but also her home at S’hurst? Yes, yes I did.)
But it is Agnes who is the star of this novel, to me. I don’t know what to say about her, other than she’s captivating to read about and perfectly imperfect. Polly gets the most insightful journey, but Agnes gets the best lines, including the last line of the novel, which broke me, in the best way.
I adore this book, a marvelous testimony of not only friendship, but of women’s lives in general.
I found this novel absolutely immersive and enthralling, with just extraordinary passages. Yes, there is a page-turnery good plot, but my favorite parts were the depictions of best-friend Polly's experiences of extreme intimacy after she gives birth to each of her children, the way she feels almost blown-open & transformed by the experience; and the true-to-life dynamics between two best friends, one of whom has a more confident and even bossy demeanor than her shyer, more overtly conventional (but beloved) chum; and especially the love story that we get to discover late in the book, which for me was like getting to find a secret notebook that carried a transporting and heart-rending, humanizing tale. This novel really is the work of a master. For those who read for propulsive plot, there is that. For those who read for the intangibles that make fiction compellingly distinct from movies because it informs of the internal life, there's that too. I put stars in the margins of my copy, and underlined a great deal.
For readers looking for a long, languorous story that spans decades.
I'm giving this novel the full enthusiasm of five stars. The characters, particularly the three characters the book is focused on, are drawn with such care. Agnes Lee, whom I consider the heart and soul of the book is in her eighties, a writer, and an unconventional woman who is unafraid to ruffle the sensibilities of her family and community. Her lifelong best friend, Polly, is always trying to do the right thing, and always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, to her peril. They meet a young woman named Maud who is capable of injecting new life into what could be staid.
The Maine setting, too, is essential, as is the land that generations ago was structured to be a protected land trust for families to visit and pass down as inheritance one generation to the next. So we've got what could be a formulaic family saga but it is much more. In spending so much time with the characters, we watch them struggle, and even in their old age, grow.
It's best to go into this novel without knowing much.
What I have learned is that grace and love are offered all the time, in every new moment, at every glimpse of the sky, or dawn of a day that has never before existed,...or the sense of time suspended when reading a good book. We are free, always, to accept what is offered... Fellowship Point Alice Elliott Dark • I don't know that I can adequately review Fellowship Point because, to quote Whitman, it “contains multitudes.” Dark wove so many intricate layers into the storyline that as paragraphs became pages and pages became chapters, I was in awe at how perfectly this novel unfolded. • Do NOT underestimate this book. It may look like a simple, summer saga about two aging women and their lifelong friendship, but it is SO much more. • Reading Fellowship Point was like falling into another world. These 600 pages contain so many moving plot lines: the love of land and place, the stories of generations of families, the depths of female friendship, the ties of community, the importance of history and the acceptance of aging. To top it off, we are even given a publishing plotline and a mystery to solve. And it's all done exquisitely. • Dark added multiple timelines, allowing the story to build without feeling rushed (and never bored) and she managed to do all of this without book bloat - a true feat. I hit a point where all I wanted to do was sit with these characters. I would love to meet Agnes in real life and won’t forget this vegetarian feminist! She’s a kindred spirit. • FP is one of the most satisfying books I've read in many years and the Maine setting was a bonus, it felt authentic and took me to a place I love. And yes, I took this photo there while visiting my parents. Bookish serendipity. • We still have a month of summer left...grab this now and savor it. And I hold out hope that Dark writes a book to celebrate winter, because I already miss knowing I have this on my nightstand.
How fortunate was I to receive an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of FELLOWSHIP POINT by talented author, Alice Elliott Dark. I can highly recommend this ‘can’t put down’ novel especially to book review clubs who will have a plethora of themes to discuss including life-long complex friendships, women landowners, terminal cancer and beyond. I especially adored that female authors were featured … outstanding colorful characters: Agnes, Polly and Maude will crawl into your heart! I was unfamiliar with Maine’s majestic coast and now have planned a future vacation .,, Read it!