'The Pi­lot's Wife' au­thor Anita Shreve suc­cumbs to can­cer

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES - By HIL­LEL ITALIE Anita Shreve, au­thor of the best-sell­ing book,“The Pi­lot’s Wife,” has died.

NEW YORK (AP) - Anita Shreve, the best­selling nov­el­ist who ex­plored how women re­sponded to crises past and present in her na­tive New Eng­land in fa­vorites such as “The Pi­lot's Wife,'' “Tes­ti­mony'' and “The Weight of Wa­ter,'' has died. She was 71.

Pub­lisher Al­fred A. Knopf said Shreve, who had been bat­tling can­cer, died Thurs­day at her home in New Hamp­shire. Shreve had an­nounced her ill­ness last year on Face­book, writ­ing that a “med­i­cal emer­gency'' would pre­vent her from tour­ing for what be­came her last novel, “The Stars Are Fire.''

Knopf ed­i­tor Jor­dan Pavlin said in a state­ment Fri­day that Shreve's “writ­ing has touched the lives of mil­lions of read­ers around the world, and she did some of her most el­e­gant, rich, and un­for­get­table work in the last years of her life.'' Fel­low writ­ers, from Jodi Pi­coult to Terry McMil­lan, also of­fered trib­utes. Sue Monk Kidd tweeted that Shreve was “an amaz­ing writer who of­fered un­par­al­leled gen­eros­ity to other writ­ers, in­clud­ing me.''

Shreve's nov­els sold mil­lions of copies, es­pe­cially af­ter Oprah Win­frey chose “The Pi­lot's Wife'' for her book club in 1999. Shreve was also a fa­vorite source for Hol­ly­wood. “The Pi­lot's Wife,'' “Re­sis­tance'' and “The Weight of Wa­ter'' all were adapted into movies. Her lit­er­ary hon­ors in­cluded an O.Henry Prize for the story “Past the Is­land, Drift­ing'' and be­ing a fi­nal­ist for Eng­land's Or­ange Prize for “The Weight of Wa­ter.'' Shreve wrote 19 nov­els in all, and pre­ferred to work in long­hand. “The creative im­pulse, the thing that gets deep in­side me, goes from the brain to the fingertips,'' she told The Writer mag­a­zine. “When you're writ­ing by hand, even when you're not con­sciously think­ing about it, you're con­struct­ing sen­tences in the best way pos­si­ble. And I still get the thrill of the clean pad of notepa­per and the pen­cil all sharp­ened.''

Born in Ded­ham, Mas­sachusetts, and a grad­u­ate of Tufts Uni­ver­sity, she be­gan writ­ing fic­tion while a high school teacher in Read­ing, Mas­sachusetts, and worked for a time as a jour­nal­ist in Kenya. As teenager, she had loved Eu­gene O'Neill's “Long Day's Jour­ney into Night'' and as­pired to “the ro­man­tic angst of a tragic writer.'' Around the same time, she spent a snowy af­ter­noon read­ing Edith Whar­ton's spare and bit­ter “Ethan Frome'' and would cite it as a last­ing in­flu­ence.

“The uni­verse within Whar­ton's en­dur­ing tale is snow­bound and iso­lated, just as frozen and stark as the world out­side my win­dow that day,'' Shreve wrote in Win­frey's mag­a­zine “O'' in 2004. “Never be­fore had I ex­pe­ri­enced re­al­ity and fic­tion merg­ing so pow­er­fully. I have said of­ten that this book was the be­gin­ning of my life as a nov­el­ist.''

She wrote of women haunted or trau­ma­tized. In “The Pi­lot's Wife,'' a woman con­tends not just with grief af­ter her hus­band dies in a plane crash but also sus­pi­cions about the tragedy it­self . “The Weight of Wa­ter'' is par­tially based on the deaths of two women off the New Hamp­shire coast, the so-called “Smut­tynose Mur­ders'' of 1873.

In “The Stars Are Fire,'' a dev­as­tat­ing blaze up­ends the world of a Maine house­wife. The book was in­spired by the so-called “Great Fires'' that swept through Maine in 1947.

“It doesn't in­ter­est me to write about women who aren't real,'' Shreve told The Writer in 2014. “My mother once said, `The minute I read that a char­ac­ter is beau­ti­ful, I flip the book over my shoul­der.' It lacks au­then­tic­ity.''

Shreve was mar­ried twice, mostly re­cently to John Os­born. She had two daugh­ters.


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