It's spring in the tiny town of Damariscotta, a tourist haven on the coast of Maine known for its oysters and antiques. Andrew, a high school English teacher recently returned to the area, has brought his family to Ed and Steph Thatch's sprawling riverside estate to attend a reception for the Amherst women's lacrosse team. Back when they were all teenagers, Andrew never could have predicted that Ed, descended from a long line of lobstermen, or Steph would ever send a daughter to a place like Amherst. But so the tides have turned, and Andrew's trying hard to admire, more than envy, the view from Ed's rolling backyard meadow. As Andrew wanders through the Thatches' house, he stumbles upon a file he's not supposed to see: photos of a torched body in a burned-out sedan. And when a line of state police cruisers crashes the Thatches' reception an hour later, Andrew and his neighbors finally begin to see the truth behind Ed and Steph's remarkable rise. Soon the newspapers are running headlines about the Thatches, and Andrew's poring over his memories, trying to piece together the story of a family he thought he knew.
Vividly rendered ... A propulsive crime saga and the story of a family’s disintegration ... It might seem easy to assume that The Midcoast is a crime procedural, and there are certainly elements of the genre. But White is too interested in character development for the novel to become bogged down in technical detail. Every time the book veers in that direction, we’re drawn back to mysteries of people and place ... The strength of White’s novel lies in the way this loss of authenticity is mirrored in the Thatches’ transformation from blue-collar nobodies to polished, small-town big shots. Brimming with keen observation, not just of the landscape but of dialect and class distinctions and all the tiny, vital particularities that make a place real in fiction, The Midcoast is an absorbing look at small-town Maine and the thwarted dreams of a family trying to transcend it.
White’s first novel is a corker, well plotted and paced and with just the right elements of suspense. That the novel moves backward and forward in time from various points of view is occasionally a bit confusing but doesn’t distract from the story with its vivid setting and well-realized characters. A fine debut.
Alluring ... White keeps the nonlinear story on a low boil, gradually hinting at Andrew’s motivation for investigating Ed and the details of his findings, which point to a hidden world of larceny and drug trafficking. An intriguing portrait emerges ... Readers will be hooked.