Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

a novel

by Susan Shreve

"Her new novel has given Susan Shreve the scope her talent deserves. The depth and variety of its characters, the swing and reach of its narrative go to make Queen of Hearts her best work so far." —Eudora Welty

"Queen of Hearts is a rich, engrossing novel. It draws a vivid family picture, is well paced and eloquently detailed. It should delight Susan Shreve's readers and make her new ones." —Larry McMurtry

"I marveled at the way Susan Shreve captures both the long, slow sweep of time and the desperate maneuvers of each character swimming in the vast sea. I felt like a spy strategically placed to capture the intimate secrets of a small town." — John Edgar Wideman

"Susan Shreve is one of our finest novelist. This is a magical book!" —Annie Dillard


Queen of Hearts is set at once in the very real world of a small Massachusetts town and in the hearts and souls of its inhabitants. At its center is the beautiful Francesca Woodbine, granddaughter of a prostitute and fortune-teller, and herself  gifted with second sight. Francesca has beauty, talent, a life rooted in what appears to be a bedrock of family affection and solid small-town virtues—but she is haunted by a terrible secret from the past. On the eve of her wedding to a handsome local boy, she discovered him betraying her with another woman, and killed him. She was not found out.


The Festival of Fortunes was held on the grounds of the high school in Bethany. Passions frozen during the long bleak winter surged out of control like the Lenora River, which in late spring swung a full skirt surrounding the town.


The Festival was actually a rite of spring. Winter in Bethany came before Thanksgiving and lasted until Spring, a damp, permanent cold from the sea. On the first of May, families broke out of their houses like flowers — full-bellied women impregnated in the lonely dark of November, children whose high spirits had been trapped too long in small rooms, young men anxious to feel the hard beating of life in their pulses. There were dancing and singing, games for the children, clowns and pony rides, a pocket lady with treasures in her apron, acrobats and jugglers. People drank merrily and made love in the next morning. And young women knew instinctively by the high prancing of the men that they could end their girlhood in some dark corner the night of the Festival.

© 2019 Susan Richards Shreve | Design by Cynthia Frank Design | Development by Abacus Design