Melissa Rose Bernardo
September 09, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Last Days of Dogtown

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Anita Diamant
publisher
Scribner
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B-

Reader beware: The Last Days of Dogtown has nothing to do with skateboards or Z-boys. It’s actually a long-vanished village in coastal Cape Ann, Mass. (setting of Anita Diamant’s 2002 novel, Good Harbor). This too-ambitious novel follows the hamlet’s 19th-century inhabitants, from farmer Tammy (how can her butter be so sweet yet her disposition so sour?) to androgynous ex-slave Black Ruth to the suspiciously self-sufficient Judy, whose capacity for love is almost unbelievably great. Diamant has a flair for fact-based fiction, as demonstrated in her breathtaking 1997 ode to oft-forgotten biblical women, The Red Tent. But although Dogtown‘s characters interact constantly, their tales rarely connect, and their male counterparts get short shrift. Pity, since Tammy’s softhearted nephew Oliver warrants a few hundred pages of his own.

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