October 13, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Compass Rose

Current Status
In Season
John Casey
We gave it an A-

When I heard John Casey had written a sequel to his splendid 1989 novel, Spartina — which The New York Times hailed as ”possibly the best American novel about going fishing since The Old Man and the Sea, maybe even Moby-Dick” — I was dismayed. Sequels, I think we can agree, are not necessarily a good thing. Would Casey evoke his irascible seaman Dick Pierce, and his windy stretch of Rhode Island shore, with the same tender skill in Compass Rose? Not to worry. Dick has faded, but Casey has brought the women in his life to the forefront: his wife, May; his girlfriend, Elsie; and especially his prickly teenage daughter, Rose. (That Rose is Elsie’s daughter, not May’s, drives much of the story.) Though the plot is a bit overcluttered — Casey has stuffed it with deaths, land grabs, scandals, mother-daughter feuds — the characters shine so brightly that it’s easy to forgive a little narrative excess. This isn’t a great novel, like Spartina. But it’s a very good one. A?

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