Cutter Place

The antagonist in The Dogs of March, Zoe Cutter, like Howard Elman, bought a rundown farm in Darby, New Hampshire. That's about all that they had in common. Howard was a working man, just squeezing by in the world, loud, barely civil in his dealing with his fellow human beings, direct, not quite literate, honest, and brash. Zoe was a wealthy widow, college educated, used to getting her way, confident in her tastes and beliefs, polite, unafraid.

For Howard, his property was all about "the land," as he put it, in fact, not even "the land," for "the land" was an expression of a mysterious feeling for which he had no accurate words. The only structure he loved was the barn; the house was mere shelter. This feeling, which came over him every day when he stepped out of the front door into the outside air, was so strong that it prevented him from understanding that for Elenore, his wife, the house had great meaning. Indeed, her house was a sacred place.

For Zoe the property was, as she would say, a challenge. Her goal was to completely renovate the house but keep its character. But for her own personal pleasure it was not the property that thrilled her. It was the view. From the prospect on this hill, looking over the field below, she could see the Connecticut River valley and the Vermont hills in the distance. Indeed, she bought the house on impulse after catching the view on a perfect October day when the trees were full of color. It wasn't until she moved in that she realized that she'd overlooked an eyesore, the junk cars on the property directly below her. Perhaps part of her subsequent behavior–the anger, the stubbornness–was an attempt to distract herself from self-blame.

In the first book of the Darby Chronicles, The Dogs of March, the Elman place and the Cutter place began as worn out farms with owners who wished to improve their properties according to their own lights. By the seventh novel of the Darby Chronicles both properties had been irretrievably transformed in ways that the original owners could have not have imagined. It's this theme of change, the form that changes take, that interests me as a novelist.