Patry Francis will discuss her novel The Orphans of Race Point on June 2, 2014 at 4 p.m. E.D.T. Follow #LitChat in Twitter, or login directly to our dedicated channel at www.nurph.com/litchat.
Faith—is it something one is born with? Can it be developed by learning? Is it fortified by adversity? Can it be caught like a contagious disease? Can it be enjoyed, savored, relished like a deep, abiding love? Patry Francis examines these questions and others in her new novel, The Orphans of Race Point.
Cape Cod is thought of by many as a vacation paradise. Jutting into the Atlantic from Massachussetts, the name conjures images of clam bakes, beach houses, old money. In The Orphans of Race Point, Francis draws on her experience as a longtime Cape Codder to paint a community devoid of tourists and wealthy landowners and rich in cultural history. Who knew a thriving community of Portuguese have called the Cape home for several generations? Francis knew, and it’s within this microcosm of ethnicity where The Orphans of Race Point is set.
At the beginning of the novel, young Hallie Costa is watching the stars on a clear summer’s night when she senses a disturbance she doesn’t understand. The next day she hears that a school-mate’s mother was murdered the previous night. She never overtly draws the connection, but as the novel progresses through her life, readers never forget the eerie scene of Hallie’s sitting alone on the roof that night.
It’s no secret the woman was killed by her own husband. He’s arrested and sent to prison without a whodunit to solve. The mystery, however, lies in what their son, Gus Silva, saw—or didn’t see—and why he no longer talks to anyone. Hallie’s father, the town doctor and an Atticus Finch of a character, is able to break through the silence, but later it’s Hallie who draws the boy out of his self-imposed solitude and another connection is made.
School begins in the fall and as the years go by Hallie and Gus are drawn into a trinity of friendship with an awkward boy named Neil. By high school, the connection between Hallie and Gus has grown so strong, they become lovers and make plans to move away from the Cape and all of their bad memories and begin a new life together after they graduate.
As many complex love stories go, Hallie and Gus are betrayed in a way that is never fully understood until years later. As Hallie heals from the devastation, Gus seeks healing from another source: God. Never religious, but always keen on the mysteries of faith, Gus seeks a new kind of solitude—that of the soul—when he takes holy orders and becomes a priest.
Hallie moves on with her life, but not from the profound effect Gus has had on it. When Gus is accused of the murder of a female parishioner, the small-town gossip mill churns up the past and he’s convicted. Hallie returns to a Provincetown that is vastly different than the one she left decades ago, and yet exactly the same. Convinced of Gus’ innocence, Hallie draws on her connection with Gus for an ending that leaves a taste both bitter and sweet as communion wine.
Patry Francis is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, and has twice been the recipient of a fellowship from Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her first novel, The Liar’s Diary, has been translated into seven languages and was recently optioned for film. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.
Follow Patry Francis in Twitter: @PatryF.