Credit…Wesley Allsbrook Lizzie Craig has a gift: She sees “pictures” of events before they take place. It happens first when she’s 10, with a vision in which her grandfather’s scythe slips from a whetstone and injures his leg. It’s the tail end of the 19th century in Fife, rural Scotland, where Lizzie is brought up by her grandparents on Belhaven Farm. Her pictures, more often than not, are premonitions of accidents and disasters: a hurt leg, a wheel coming off a cart, a tree hit by lightning. They tend to arrive “a few weeks before the accident,” giving Lizzie time to prepare, and sometimes, intervene accordingly. That’s the magical concept behind the Scottish writer Margot Livesey’s new novel, “The Road From Belhaven.” But the book is not a tale of supernatural intrigue and suspense. Lizzie keeps her gift secret, anticipating disapproval after she witnesses her grandmother’s reaction to a visiting fortuneteller. “We all want to know the future,” she says, “but only God can know what’s coming. It’s the devil tempting us when we try to find out.” Similarly, the novel sidelines the supernatural; Lizzie’s visions appear occasionally to kick-start various plot points but otherwise the story focuses on a familiar and subtle historical coming-of-age story. The book follows Lizzie through youth and young adulthood. She is preternaturally sweet, and growing up, she wants nothing more than to inherit her grandparents’ farm and care for them in their old age. As a child, she attends the local school, reads Lewis Carroll, helps at home and is praised for her skill at drawing. As a teenager, she watches her older sister bloom into sexual curiosity, tell lies, desire adventures and covet what others have. But Lizzie experiences few of these adolescent eruptions herself, later reflecting, non-euphemistically, that “she had thought nothing mattered besides plowing a straight furrow.” It’s naïveté, rather than lust, that leads her to have premarital sex with Louis, a friend of her family’s farmhand and an apprentice tailor, when Lizzie is a young adult. She first meets him when he comes to work at Belhaven for the […]
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