The first baby was found early on a weekend morning in September 1985, as the whole broad length of the Upper Valley braced for its annual riptide of strangers, and as the first maples on the banks of the Sabbathday River prepared to burst, obligingly, into flame.
Jogging outside the town of Goddard, New Hampshire, Naomi Roth finds the body of a newborn baby girl floating facedown in the Sabbathday River. News of the dead child spreads quickly through Goddard, and Naomi--an aging idealist, a former VISTA volunteer, and the founder of a women's quilting cooperative--is shocked when the community swiftly, implausibly fingers Heather Pratt, a young single mother notorious for her affair with a married man, as the prime suspect. It comes as an even greater shock when, after a long interrogation behind closed doors, Heather confesses to the crime.
Moved and angered by Heather's plight--and increasingly isolated in conservative Goddard--Naomi engages the help of Judith Friedman, a lawyer and fellow "flatlander," to defend the young woman. But when the truth at the heart of this astonishing case--and the body of a second baby--comes to light, it is Naomi who must confront how little she has understood her town, her friend, and herself.
The Sabbathday River builds to a truly surprising ending that casts everything that came before in a new light. This is a hypnotic, enormously resonant novel by one of the most powerful writers to emerge in recent seasons.