Is your surname Shreve?

Research the Shreve family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Anita Shreve

Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: March 29, 2018 (71)
Newfields, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Richard H. Shreve and Bibiana Shreve
Wife of Private
Ex-wife of Private
Mother of Private and Private

Occupation: Author
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

    • Private
    • Private
    • Private
    • Private
    • Private
    • Private
    • Private

About Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve, a best-selling author whose novels explored change, loss and troubled marriages, often against the backdrop of a real historical event, died on Thursday at her home in Newfields, N.H. She was 71.

Her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, said the cause was cancer.

Ms. Shreve drew critical acclaim and a large following with books like “The Weight of Water” (1997), an intricate story involving a long-ago crime and present-day dramas. Susan Kenney, reviewing that book in The New York Times, described it as “a cryptic long-lost narrative inside an impending family tragedy wrapped in a true-crime murder mystery framed by the aftermath of all of the above.”

The review continued, “Ms. Shreve unravels themes of adultery, jealousy, crimes of passion, incest, negligence, loss and guilt, and then manages somehow to knit them all together into an engrossing tale. The book became a 2000 film directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Many of her books featured women in stressful situations, a setup she found rich in possibilities.

“In ‘The Weight of Water’ there’s a line,” she said in an interview last year with WBUR radio, “and it says, ‘If you push a woman to the edge, how will she behave?’ And that, to me, is a fascinating question.”

Ms. Shreve was born on Oct. 7, 1946, in Boston. Her father, Richard, was an airline pilot, and her mother, the former Bibiana Kennedy, was a homemaker. She grew up in Dedham, Mass.

“I wrote poems in my closet,” she said in a 2011 interview with Tufts Now, a publication of Tufts University, where she received an English degree in 1968. “Writing for a living wasn’t on the radar screen, wasn’t discussed at the dinner table. It wasn’t a practical thing to even consider doing. But when I look back now, I can see it was there all along.”

First came a career as a high school teacher in the Boston area. In the early 1970s, though, the urge to write could no longer be denied.

“I quit teaching in the middle of the year,” she said. “Not at Christmas, when it would’ve been at least a little bit logical, but in April. I couldn’t even wait two months. I felt like it was now or never. It was a statement. To myself, really.”

She spent years as a freelance journalist, writing the occasional short story as well, but didn’t try longer fiction until the late 1980s. Her first novel, “Eden Close,” about a long-ago crime and its aftermath, was published in 1989.

“ ‘Eden Close’ is not a novel of suspense but one of sensibility,” Carolyn Banks wrote in reviewing it for The Times. “Its insights are keen, its language measured and haunting.”

Ms. Shreve’s career, and her book sales, got a big boost in 1999 when Oprah Winfrey chose “The Pilot’s Wife” (1998), a book about a woman whose husband dies in a plane crash, for Oprah’s Book Club.

“I’m still a bit stunned,” Ms. Shreve told The Boston Globe after Ms. Winfrey called her personally to give her the news. The book was made into a 2002 television movie starring Christine Lahti.

Years later, in an interview with The Irish Independent, Ms. Shreve voiced a hint of regret that the exposure had changed the view of her books from literary to commercial.

“I don’t think I could ever say aloud that I’m sorry that the Oprah call happened, because I’m not,” she said, “but I paid for it.”

In a 2002 interview with The Times, Ms. Shreve said that several of her books, including “The Pilot’s Wife,” had been inspired, in a sense, by one particular white-clapboard house on the coast of Maine, near where she spent her summer vacations.

She did not own the house, and in fact had never been in it, she said, but she took a picture of it, hung it over her desk and imagined people living there and the events that transformed their lives.

Often those events drew on actual ones. “The Pilot’s Wife,” she said, was not based on her father’s career, but germinated when she overheard a snippet of conversation about a plane crash at a party. “Sea Glass” (2002), another book that used the house as a setting, involved the Great Depression.

“Testimony” (2008) was inspired by real-life scandals at boarding schools. “Stella Bain” (2014) was a World War I story. And her most recent book, “The Stars Are Fire,” published last year, draws on devastating wildfires that struck Maine in 1947.

Ms. Shreve’s marriage to John Clemans ended in divorce. She is survived by her husband, John Osborn; a son, Chris Clemans; a daughter, Katherine Clemans; three stepchildren, Whitney Osborn, Allison Leary and Molly Jacobson; two sisters, Janet Martland and Betsy Shreve-Gibb; and three grandchildren.

Ms. Shreve often said she preferred writing in longhand to working on a computer.

“Something happens, I can’t explain it,” she said, “but the process goes from the head to the arm to the hand to the pen to the paper.”

Since her first novel was published, Ms. Shreve averaged about a book every year and a half. But she was not the type of writer who found that experience makes the words flow more quickly.

“If an architect had built 17 buildings,” she said in 2011, invoking her 17th novel, “you can be sure that he would know certain shortcuts, exactly what weight the walls could bear, what goes where. When you start writing a novel, nothing that you’ve done before helps in any way.”

view all

Anita Shreve's Timeline

October 7, 1946
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
March 29, 2018
Age 71
Newfields, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, United States