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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (304 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Christopher Tilghman Narrator: Scott Sowers Publisher: Macmillan Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2012 ISBN: 9781427227324
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A masterful novel that confronts the dilemmas of race, family, and forbidden love in the wake of America's Civil War

Fifteen years after the publication of his acclaimed novel Mason's Retreat, Christopher Tilghman returns to the Mason family and the Chesapeake Bay in The Right-Hand Shore.

It is 1920, and Edward Mason is making a call upon Miss Mary Bayly, the current owner of the legendary Mason family estate, the Retreat. Miss Mary is dying. She plans to give the Retreat to the closest direct descendant of the original immigrant owner that she can find. Edward believes he can charm the old lady, secure the estate and be back in Baltimore by lunchtime.

Instead, over the course of a long day, he hears the stories that will forever bind him and his family to the land. He hears of Miss Mary's grandfather brutally selling all his slaves in 1857 in order to avoid the reprisals he believes will come with Emancipation. He hears of the doomed efforts by Wyatt Bayly, Miss Mary's father, to turn the Retreat into a vast peach orchard, and of Miss Mary and her brother growing up in a fractured and warring household. He learns of Abel Terrell, son of free blacks who becomes head orchardist, and whose family becomes intimately connected to the Baylys and to the Mason legacy.

The drama in this richly textured novel proceeds through vivid set pieces: on rural nineteenth-century industry; on a boyhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland; on the unbreakable divisions of race and class; and, finally, on two families attempting to save a son and a daughter from the dangers of their own innocent love. The result is a radiant work of deep insight and peerless imagination about the central dilemma of American history.

The Right-Hand Shore is a New York Times Notable Book of 2012.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Constructed, Wuthering Heights style, . . . The Right-Hand Shore represents an outing of some of America's most troubled ghosts . . . Tilghman unfolds his harsh lesson with precision, delicacy and startling humor . . . ‘The Right-Hand Shore' is the dark, magisterial creation of a writer with an uncanny feel for the intersections of place and character in American history. His readers will want to hear more stories from the Eastern Shore estate. Let's just hope he doesn't keep us waiting for another 16 years. Fernanda Eberstadt, New York Times Book Review

  • Tilghman's exquisite third novel returns to the eastern shore of Maryland to prefigure the events of his first, Mason's Retreat. It's 1920, and recently married Edward Mason has arrived at the Retreat--a former planation and peach orchard, and now a dairy--to meet his distant cousin, Mary Bayly, the current owner. Mary's cancer has put the fate of the property in jeopardy--and Edward in line to receive the gift and burden of the land. After an unsettling interview with the formidable Mary, Edward sits with the longtime property manager, Oral French, and his wife, who recount the Retreat's secrets, from miscegenation to slavery to murder. Listening to the pain caused by pride, selfishness, and the desire for love, Edward feels ‘mauled by the pull of the past, still so fresh for these people.' The tale's descent into tragedy is nevertheless beautiful; ‘creamy yellow' sunlight and the perfume of peach blossoms pervade Mason's Retreat alongside its ghosts and horrors. Tilghman maneuvers through the misery of three generations, following each elegant plot turn inevitably back to its source: this living, breathing land on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • [Tilghman] writes so beautifully . . . His long paragraphs and the susurrus of Maryland landscape--‘water grasses with tufts of white blossoms, wild privet, and scraggly water elm'--weave an intoxicating spell. The novel's characters are utterly engrossing. All possess that American familial yen for somehow correcting the mistakes of their own upbringing--of doing better. Yet they are caught in a system designed for stasis. This contradiction creates terrible predicaments that seem designed to bear the maximum amount of pressure on the awful compromises Tilghman's characters must make. John Freeman, The Boston Globe
  • The past has a way of making hearts ache in Christopher Tilghman's excellent novel The Right-Hand Shore. Set in Maryland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his story explores the desires that drive people to try to overcome the past . . . Tilghman, who directs the creative writing program at the University of Virginia, is a short story writer as well as a novelist. Many chapters in his new book could nearly stand on their own as captivating glimpses into the relationships--white and black, owner and workman, man and woman, parent and child--that revolve around the Retreat . . . Tilghman's skill at presenting the clashing points of view for his characters is matched by his ability to evoke their place and time, whether it's a Catholic girls school in Paris or a black village on the peninsula called Tuckertown. There's never a false note, either, only poignant and surprising ones that linger long after the last page. Douglas K. Daniel, Associated Press
  • Tilghman is such a master of mood that . . . I just kept rereading isolated sentences--like lines of poetry--to savor his descriptions . . . He so fully inhabits the marshy souls of his characters, there's never any of those awkward moments where, as a reader, you're jarred out of his story with the awareness that you're reading ‘historical fiction.' With The Right-Hand Shore, Tilghman remains ‘the real deal.' Maureen Corrigan, NPR
  • A hugely enjoyable saga, elegantly told. David Evans, Financial Times
  • A rare achievement. Christopher Tilghman's vision of the American past--and particularly of individuals caught in the tidal sweep of history--is dazzling in its precision and clarity. Charles Frazier, winner of the National Book Award for Cold Mountain
  • Christopher Tilghman is a novelist's novelist in that he can hold the years in his head and then deal them out in a layered story so achingly gracious and incisive that it becomes for a week in a reader's house the very reason for the chair, the lamp. Offered in Tilghman's astonishing prose, the story of this place--focusing on two families, two races, the history of a peach orchard, and a love that is both natural and forbidden--is a reader's deep pleasure. The story flows inexorably through the insistent harm of the period, which is brought to such life that we see it is really our own. This is a big, wonderful novel. Ron Carlson, author of The Signal and Five Skies
  • This is bold storytelling--a man spends a day listening to tales of the past that become an eloquent set of voices sailing through his imagination and into an intimate history of a place called Mason's Retreat. It's a wonderful novel, unfolded in elegant and precise language. Bobbie Ann Mason, author of Shiloh

  • The Right-Hand Shore is the dark, magisterial creation of a writer with an uncanny feel for the intersections of place and character in American history…Tilghman unfolds his harsh lesson with precision, delicacy, and startling humor.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Elegant and engrossing…Tilghman writes so beautifully…[weaving] an intoxicating spell.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Tilghman maneuvers through the misery of three generations, following each elegant plot turn inevitably back to its source: this living, breathing land on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay…The tale’s descent into tragedy is nevertheless beautiful…Exquisite.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Rich in narrative and vision, this is an absorbing and poignant tale of family, race, and love of land.”

    Booklist

  • One of the 2012 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction
  • Among longlisted titles for New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, 2012

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sherbys law | 2/17/2014

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  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy Bringardner | 2/8/2014

    " Great story, based on the Maryland Eastern shore. The generations that have lived there and the odd family events make this story interesting and compelling. The author pulls you in and you want more and more as you follow this family. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Maggie | 1/28/2014

    " I thought I'd love this book, but it seemed in desperate need of reorganization and editing. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elaine | 1/19/2014

    " Sorry, just couldn't get into it. :( "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tinab | 1/7/2014

    " I enjoyed reading this because I have historical ties to the families mentioned: the Lloyds, the Masons, and others. I also have ties to the Tilghmans (who are tied to the Lloyds). There were some annoying dragging-on parts, and I got confused a lot as to who was who, and who was speaking. But the style of writing was a kind of style I enjoy reading, other than the confusing parts. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Yasmin | 12/27/2013

    " More like a 3.5 read...beginning was a little slow...and I'm actually getting burnt out on historical fictional storylines about slavery...I need to pace myself and not read them back to back that's for sure. Althought this one wasn't really about slavery...but during that time period...when it was still going on in the South. I enjoyed learning about life in a border state (Maryland) for blacks and appreciated reading a different perspective...but was still annoyed because blacks were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Wait...that's still going on in 2012...but I digress.Tilghman is a skilled writer and I will probably go back and read the first book in this series...to see if I can gain a better understanding of some of these colorful characters. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Linda | 12/8/2013

    " Okay, I read the other reviews that said this book "started slow". That is an understatement. Perhaps it was my mood when starting the book. Whatever the reason, I found the first 37 pages stultifying and it did not help that the author told the ending by page 19. This read was simply not for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Linda | 11/24/2013

    " Moved painfully slow and skipped to the end since it was so boring. After about 50 pages, I really didn't care what happened to the characters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Eleanor Henderson | 11/12/2013

    " A rich, elegant, lovingly researched and fully imagined book. I loved it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Astralata | 11/4/2013

    " Brilliant, lyrical, luminous. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jean | 10/29/2013

    " Elegant writer, fascinating story--not to be read quickly! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John Benson | 9/27/2013

    " This book takes place in the late 1800s and early 1900s on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at an estate called Mason's Retreat. It brings out the relationship between the family that owned the estate and their black workers. It ended up being an excellent story, told somewhat slowly and thoughtfully. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joan Michalcik Fox | 9/12/2013

    " Having read Mason's Retreat, I decided to fill out the family history and read this one. Characters are interesting, and you really get a feel for the geography and the period, but I didn't find it compelling. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caty Clifton | 7/2/2013

    " Post civil war eastern shore of Maryland family saga. Good writing, thanks once again to my public librarian for acquiring interesting and broad spectrum fiction. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pam | 5/1/2013

    " This historical novel about late 1800's Maryland was exceptionally well-written and interesting too. I would like to go back and read his other book about Maryland, Mason's Retreat. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pat Palermo | 10/30/2012

    " Just finished the book. I have mixed feelings about it. I was drawn by the story but the author tended to drag on a bit. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sharon | 10/22/2012

    " wordy-hard to finish "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca | 10/5/2012

    " Beautifully written. Christopher Tilghman's masterful descriptions easily carry the reader along on a fascinating and thoughtful journey through the lives of the Mason/Bayly families and their struggles at Mason's Retreat. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ginger Moran | 8/10/2012

    " So far, loving it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patricia | 7/7/2012

    " Excellent! It is so emotional I had to take rest breaks. "

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About the Author

Christopher Tilghman is the author of multiple short story collections, including In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, as well as several novels such as Mason’s Retreat and Roads of the Heart.

About the Narrator

Scott Sowers is an actor and audiobook narrator. AudioFile magazine named him the 2008 Best Voice in Mystery and Suspense. He is the winner of seven Earphones Awards.