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The Martha's Vineyard Times

The Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly publication.
July 14 - July 20, 2005 Edition
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In Print
July 14, 2005

There is no new In Print story this week.

Charming novel brings summer respite
July 7, 2005

By Pat Waring

“One Sunday Morning,” Amy Ephron, New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. $21.95. 213 pgs.

“One Sunday Morning” is a book you should read on the verandah (not the deck), wearing a floppy sun hat instead of your Red Sox cap, and sipping lemonade, maybe a white wine spritzer, but certainly not a Corona. On the other hand, according to author Amy Ephron, some fans report that they read it during an airport wait, in traffic, at lunch in the office. No matter where you read it, “One Sunday Morning” will create that lemonade-on-the-verandah mood, and for that alone it is a boon and blessing during these hectic days of summer.

Ms. Ephron herself has her own thoughts about where to read her slim, 213-page gem. “I think of it as a nice book to curl up with on a couch on an afternoon,” she confided in a phone interview from her Los Angeles home Sunday evening.

Amy Ephron is sweet-voiced, slightly breathless. She was just in from grappling with daisies in her new cactus and succulent garden, just settling in with her new lawyer husband whom she married in the midst of her whirlwind cross-country book tour. A divorced single mom for the past decade, newly remarried, a brand new book out and another five to her credit, no wonder Amy Ephron sounds breathless.

But her writing is anything but. Her prose reads like it was written in a gazebo, a cool breeze blowing. Or at least in a quiet office with a bunch of daisies on the desk and Mozart playing. Is she one of these disciplined writers with orderly days who work religiously from 6 am until noon, then stop for lunch and a walk? Hardly.

During her 20 years of novel writing Amy has worked as a film executive, written screen plays, and raised three children. Not exactly a serene writing lifestyle.

“You write in the car, you write in your head, you write at dinner,” she said.

Maybe it is because of the Five Corners traffic, too-much-to-do hubbub of our Vineyard summer, or the suddenly universal yearning for streamlining and simplicity, but this little book is the perfect antidote, like a cool drink of — well yes, lemonade. It is not that it is short (although it is). It is more that it is spare, that the sentences are unencumbered, not stark but clean, fit, carefully honed. The book itself, the size, the supple stock, the soft, just-off-focus cover photo of a woman in a flowered straw hat and soft satin, the delicate print — not too many words on a page, plenty of air around them — expresses serenity, evokes a sigh of relief.

Deceptively simple is an understatement. At first glance one might think the writer could toss off such a book in a few weeks. But look closer, and you will discover how each phrase is carefully turned, each word mindfully chosen. Ms. Ephron, who loves history, good literature, and words, says she has the unusual writing habit of working on only a few pages at a time, fine tuning them until they are truly finished. She spends about three years on a novel.

Ms. Ephron sets her characters loose in the heady settings of 1920’s New York City and Paris. She introduces us to a group of friends. There is Mary Nell, the prim but curious observer of life; the genteel older friend Betsy Owen; Geoffrey Rice, her dashing nephew, jaded from his world travels with issues only hinted at. Clara and Billy are engaged. Iris, less glamorous then her friends, quietly hopes to find Mr. Right.

And then there is Lizzie Carswell — think Scarlet O’Hara. “She never did understand what it meant to be proper,” intones Betsy Owen when the ladies meet for tea.

We know them at once, but do we? As in any situation where manners come first, emotions and secrets are not far beneath.

Ms. Ephron is fascinated by the impact of single moments in time. “There are moments that can change a person’s life, a chance encounter, something someone tells you,” she says. Her tale, she says, spins itself out from just such a moment.

Ms. Ephron said a friend compared her book to a box of chocolates. It is, for it is quite impossible to read just one chapter without having to read just one more — another truffle? A cherry cordial? It goes much too fast.

Though the author ties the story up with a neat symmetry at the end, questions remain. Whatever will become of these young socialites with their whims and dreams and quirks?

I find now that I miss them. I have no one to sit on the verandah with, no perfect-seeming people whose secrets I can speculate about as we sip lemonade and make gracious conversation. Perhaps Amy Ephron will bring them back; if not, we can only hope she will introduce us to another batch soon.

Amy Ephron will be at the Bunch of Grapes, Main St., Vineyard Haven, on Wednesday, July 13, 7:30 pm. 508-693-2291.
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