Author: Suzanne Hadfield Semsch
Have you ever contemplated researching families that once inhabited old run down homes? Suzanne Hadfield Semsch’s novel, Turn on No Bridge Road may push you to do it. And you may be astonished as to what family secrets you might discover.
Our story gets underway when Semsch’s protagonist, Clarice (Claire) Sutton is informed by her former boyfriend, Jeremiah (Jerry) Weeks, who is an attorney, that she has inherited her grandfather’s property known as Woodbine Farm located in rural Virginia. The farm consists of four hundred acres of woods and farmland, a house, cabin barn and three outbuildings, as well as a burying ground.
Thirty-year old Claire lives in Philadelphia, where she works as an assistant editor, and while traveling to attend her grandfather’s funeral and settle his estate, she is filled with many conflicting emotions including guilt for not having visited her grandfather more often. Episodes of her past are churning in her head reminding her of the many summers she had spent at Woodbine Farm and where she even had lived for a brief period with her mother. She also finds it quite ironic that Jerry had called her to inform her of her grandfather’s death and her inheritance. It was this same Jerry who had been the love of her life but who had unfortunately jilted her in favor of someone else, whom he married. Was she still in love with Jerry? How would she react when she meets him?
Experiencing nasty weather while approaching Woodbine Farm, Claire’s MG veers into a ditch. An older man mysteriously shows up and proves to be a godsend as he helps Claire maneuver her car out of the ditch. Her rescuer introduces himself as Miller Dawson and as it turns out he was a close friend of her grandfather and father.
Miller informs Claire that he knows more about her grandfather’s property that she would care to know and as he states: “The old place has a thousand secrets, and I reckon I know only about half of ’em. And the rest, well….I can guess at those.” Little does Claire realize at the moment that her ensuing platonic relationship with Miller will lead to all kinds of amazing discoveries concerning her family roots.
As Claire becomes involved with the winding up of her grandfather’s estate, she fears that she will not be able to afford Woodbine Farm and will be forced to sell it. Jerry, who is depicted as a sleazeball, assures Claire that he has prospective purchasers for the property and not to worry. However, Claire is reluctant to let go of the property and is advised by Miller not to get involved with Jerry, whom he staunchly dislikes and feels will cheat her out of her inheritance. Moreover, he agrees to help Claire fix up the property for her to live in.
While Claire is busy fixing up Woodbine Farm with the help of Miller, a young architect, Nicolas Darling shows up on her doorsteps claiming to be her distant relative. He goes on to inform Claire that one of his ancestors may have even built the the place and he would be interested in purchasing the property from her.
After setting up the foundation for the story, Semsch gets down to the business of following Claire’s complex life which up to the time of her inheritance was somewhat simple. And as Miller foresees and utters to Claire, “one day ye’ll learn somethin’ I wisht ye’d known all along.”
The story has a great deal of potential but unfortunately the momentum fades during the third part of the saga as the result of the inclusion of too many lackluster scenes that just didn’t work and did not fit in with the compelling atmosphere of the first two parts. Nonetheless, I commend Semsch for having created a highly developed and sympathetic character in her protagonist who is faced with many complex conflicts. The magnet that really maintained my interest in Claire and ultimately the story was the manner in which Semsch conceptualizes these conflicts utilizing such devices as tension, friction, opposition, worries, obsession, looming disaster, peril, and basically putting her through hell in many scenes.
Follow Here To Read Norm’s Interview With Suzanne Hadfield Semsch