Rescue, By Anita Shreve


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The Independent Culture

Rookie paramedic Peter Webster has been trained to avoid entanglements with his patients. But when he pulls a young woman from the wreckage of her car, he can't help being drawn to her chesnut tresses and inviting mouth.

Sheila Arsenault is an alcoholic on the run from a violent partner. Webster is convinced he can "smooth out" her rough edges and bring this "sexy and beautiful" girl back from the brink. Fast-forward 18 years, and it's clear Webster's heroics have been misguided.

Not Shreve's best novel, this medical melodrama feels contrived. Life in working-class Vermont is well-portrayed, but these hardscrabble New Englanders never quite emerge as flesh-and-blood. Yet Shreve never fails to get our hearts racing, even when we've been running on empty.