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The Price of Land in Shelly

A rich, multigenerational novel narrates a Vermont family's saga of suffering and survival, of loyalty to the land and escape from it.



"Narrated in turn by each of these skillfully drawn characters, "The Price of Land in Shelby" offers a portrait of rural New England stripped of any trace of sentimentality." --The New York Times.

"'Her brother and sisters, who'd known car crash and cancer and the slash of the belt and a bad spin of the genetic roulette, all of them going on in their attempts to wrest some little bit of good times, some crazy hope when they ought to know better.' Crazy hope is the animating force in this sweeping story of the Chartrain family, set against an unforgiving Vermont landscape in the years 1965-94. Growing up in a ragtag, half-built house with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mother sick with cancer, the five Chartrain children can't wait to bolt from home, only to discover themselves repeating the family patterns. Each of the novel's chapters focuses on a different family member, revisiting them over the course of 30 years and yielding a deeply nuanced group portrait. Alcoholism and emotional instability are a large part of their story, but they're not the whole story. We see Mitchell at 17 gleefully piloting a kiddie train through Santa's Village; down the line we see him at 37, in Maine, piloting a huge sailboat through heavy fog. We also know just how far he's had to come and exactly what it's cost him to fulfill that dream. Wedding a highly polished technique to gritty, keenly observed details, Alberts has written a wonderful story about a family full of crazy hope."

--Booklist, starred and boxed review