Cover image for Gravesend light : a novel
Gravesend light : a novel
Payne, David (William David)
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 2000.
Physical Description:
382 pages ; 25 cm
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In Gravesend Light, award-winning author David Payne masterfully combines moving drama, a high-seas adventure, and a deeply affecting love story. It is the story of Joe Madden, an anthropologist who has returned to his family's summer home on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Little Roanoke, with its traditions dating back to the time of Sir Walter Raleigh, is an isolated enclave threatened by the encroachment of modern civilization -- and the subject of Joe's study. Here, he meets two people who will alter the course of his future: Ray Barstow, a fisherman and ex-con who, aboard the Father's Price, teaches him more than just the ropes of one of the world's most dangerous professions; and Day Shaughnessey, a Yale-educated Ob-Gyn and ardent feminist whose views on reproductive rights come into conflict with the deeply religious people of Little Roanoke. The events of the story culminate in a savage storm at sea that the crew of the Father's Price -- including Joe Madden -- may not survive.

Author Notes

David Payne is the author of three previous novels: Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street, which won the prestigious Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award; Early from the Dance; and Ruin Creek. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and now lives in Wells, Vermont.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Here's a great read: a story rich in color and sentiment, both rip-roaring and romantic. On Little Roanoke, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the early `80s, anthropologist Joe Madden comes to his family's summerhouse to study the locals. He works on one of the fishing boats, and he falls in love with Day Shaughnessy, a doctor in the women's clinic. Their dance of attraction is mirrored in their increasingly divergent views of Little Roanoke's women, churches, and family strictures. Payne alternates his point of view between Joe and Day, and he mostly carries it off, but the wallop this book packs is in the gloriously rendered, utterly tactile descriptions of Joe's work on the fishing boat. It culminates in a breathtaking storm that also functions--of course--as metaphor. Conversations between Day and Joe, between Joe and the fishermen, between Day and her patients, are lively and thoughtful: people think hard and express both thought and emotion as precisely as circumstances allow. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Taking up the story of Joe Madden, son of May and Jimmy Madden from Payne's earlier Ruin Creek, this earnest, maritime-accented novel opens with Joe's 1983 return to Little Roanoke, N.C. Now a cultural anthropologist, he secures a berth on the fishing boat Father's Price in the hopes of completing an ethnographic survey of local fishermen and their families, his primary focus being the clash between tradition and modernization. Joe himself is soon clashing with love interest Dr. Day Shaughnessy, a committed feminist and prochoice advocate who runs a clinic for women and is stirring up trouble in the conservative community. Joe, who professes to be a neutral observer, doubts the wisdom of her interference in town affairs. Meantime, he is tormented by memories of his parents' difficult relationship. But when two unplanned pregnancies crop up in the plot, and Joe and the crew of Father's Price are caught in a fierce winter storm, Joe realizes that he must renounce his Hamletish ways and act rather than observe, or risk losing what he sees as his chance for salvation. When an accomplished novelist publishes as rarely as PayneÄthis is just his fourth novel since 1984Äany new book is greeted with high hopes. Heartfelt but uneven, this one only partially satisfies. Once again, Payne's trademark passion for the Southern landscape is palpably in evidence and he's got Joe's modern gothic family down pat. But copious doses of fishing lore overwhelm the plot, and only those who have an ethnographer's high tolerance for dialect will appreciate extended authentic passages in which characters fight "foire with foire." The novel's intense focus on large, complex issuesÄthe abortion debate, homosexuality, Christian faithÄwill strike some readers as polemical, but others will appreciate Payne's willingness to treat them head-on, with passionate zeal. Southern reading tour. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

At first disjointed, Payne's new novel improves as it draws readers into its interesting human dramas. Payne builds real and intelligent characters, examining their lives just as his protagonist, an introspective young anthropologist named Joe Madden, delves into the lives of the people he is studying. Joe has come to his family's summer home in the small, remote fishing village of Little Roanoke on North Carolina's Outer Banks, where he works on a fishing boat as he carries out his project. From their particular superstitions and fishing lore to the evangelistic style they adopt at the Lighthouse church, Little Roanoke's inhabitants come under Joe's microscope. When things get really personal, however, Joe must turn the microscope on himself, with mixed results. His relationship with his girlfriend, Dr. Day Shaughnessy, who works at the local women's clinic, takes an unexpected turn, and then a tragic winter storm threatens his ship and the lives of everyone aboard. Payne (Early from the Dance) has written a winning work that should do well in public libraries.ÄShannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.