easy web maker


"an insightful, empathetic novel"
~ Publishers Weekly

the skinny

from the book jacket

"The night turned blacker and colder. I switched off the car radio. I had a home to go to. I had locks on my doors. But just outside were dark hungry shapes that had once had names like Hero or Jack. Muzzles that used to nudge someone's hand for a pat now sniffed the air for prey. People walked away from the things they were responsible for, like those things weren't going to come back in the middle of the night and tear your throat open. I rolled up the window against the chill. Lit another cigarette with my head pounding like a kettledrum. The Merc rolled toward home."

Mary Culpepper is a strong woman, fearless and independent to a fault. But when she discovers the body of a child in her small northern Michigan town, she suffers a breakdown that has family and friends treating her like "sulfuric acid about to spatter." In the following months Mary does all she can to keep her mind off the upcoming trial, in which she will have to tell what she did—and did not—witness. It's a time when she most needs her best friend, Amy, whose history of lies and betrayal Mary is not willing to face. As the trial looms closer, and Mary's past catches up to her, not even the heated passion of an illicit affair can fend off the presence of the Night Visitor, a monster of stone and silence who destroys her sleep.

One young girl has already been sacrificed to the Culpepper legacy of willful blindness. Now another girl lies in the path of danger, another girl about to suffer the consequences of someone choosing to shut her eyes and remain blameless. But when Mary attempts to break the chain of betrayal, the resulting explosion could destroy all that she has sought to protect.

Following Billy Dead, which Alice Munro called a "brave, heart-wrenching debut," Blameless is a story of tender humor, violent passion, and a fierce exploration of moral accountability. It will pull you in, unable to look away until its last unforgettable page.

booklist starred review

May 2000. Random, hardcover
"Strong, seemingly self-contained, Mary Culpepper is the last person to have built a protective shell around herself--or so she thinks. She lives a small-town life, drives the school bus, goes to yard sales with her mom and sisters, plays softball, and has lots of friends. But, in this first-person narrative, the reader can see evidence of the pain that she lives with, and denies. As a child, she was the weapon used in her parents’ battles. When Mary’s husband asked for a divorce, it was to marry her best friend--Mary was a bridesmaid at the wedding. But when she finds one of the smallest riders of her bus dead in a closet, the nightmares begin. What does the “Night Visitor” want, and what is it trying to tell her? Her search for solace grows more desperate. She seeks love in places where it can only cause more grief and pain but eventually comes to know the truth, and from confronting the truth, she knows some peace. Reardon perfectly captures the cadence and tone of small-town speech and events and, in spite of the “cheap” ending, has written a wonderful, wrenching novel that is complex in its simplicity, with characters that will stay with the reader for a long time." (Reviewed March 15, 2000)— Danise Hoover 

praise for BLAMELESS

Booklist Starred Review

"Vivid characters, serious ethical and emotional dilemmas and a terse, tragi-comic prose style make this author's second novel a suspenseful read."

"This insightful, empathic story contains moving dialog, compelling narrative, and believable characters ... Carrington McDuffie's reading contributes to the emotional resonance and humor of this disturbing but compelling tale."

"The novel is a steady ache, forcing us to concentrate on who among us is Blamelss and who among us could stand to blame less."

"Reardon weaves this tale in emotionally resonant prose ... her writing is strong and spare"

"A gripping tale of guilt and grace. With a beautifully spare writing style, Reardon captures even the mundane with uncommon grace. Blameless once again demonstrates Reardon's rare gift for creating gritty characters who enthrall and enlighten us."

"the author shows the love and affection that can bind women together despite the jealousy and back-biting that grow in the fertile field of small-town life."

photo gallery

The story and the characters for "Blameless" came while the author was looking through a box of old photographs in a junk shop, and came across a series of pictures all depicting one family. As the years go on and Julianna gets older, John and Doreen no longer appear.
What had happened? And who had been taking the pictures all along?

PHOTO CREDITS | Top of Page . Creative Commons | Review Photo . Lisa Reardon | Photo Gallery . Unknown, found photos