Deahn Berrini – Milkweed: A Novel. Reviewed by Ipswich Chronicle

(“Berrini sets vet novel in Ipswich,” in Ipswich Chronicle, July 10, 2009.)

She dug clams commercially. Her sister shucked clams for the Soffrons. And, referring to her Greek background growing up in Ipswich, she said, “It’s in the water.”

That’s how novelist Deahn Berrini explains the setting of her first published novel, Milkweed, now available in area bookstores.

Although not named, Ipswich is where the tale of a 21-year-old community college student and her troubled Vietnam veteran boyfriend unfolds. The clam business is where Cassie, the novel’s central figure, works as office manager. Her friend lives on Town Farm road. Her mother is buried in the Ipswich cemetery. And she regularly goes to the beach.

For an Ipswich reader, there is a visceral contact.

Berrini is the daughter of Bette Tsoutsouras, a retired teacher, and the stepdaughter of Ipswich’s well–known cobbler, Charles Tsoutsouras.

She moved to Ipswich when she was six and graduated from IHS in ‘79. At Brown, where she majored in history, Berrini met her husband, Russell Leblang, and they both went on to law school, she at Boston College, he at Harvard.

After law school, Berrini quickly found that law was “not a good match,” and she became a teacher until she had children. Raising her young children, she found she had a chunk of time during their afternoon naps when she could turn to her persistent interest, writing.

First there were short stories, then a novel that has since been “shredded.”

Milkweed was published this June, and another novel, also set in Ipswich, is finished and awaiting publication.

Berrini and her husband now live in Swampscott. They have two children: Alexander, 17, and Charlotte, 14.

Berrini’s interest in the problems of a returning vet began when a college paper on post-traumatic stress disorder led her to interview a Vietnam vet. His story gave her a profound feeling that in terms of reintegrating those veterans, “We did that wrong.”

How that “wrong” plays out in relationship to a waiting girlfriend is the focus of Milkweed.

Reviewing this novel, author Richard Currey writes, “Although set in 1971, this compassionate tale of a community trying to welcome back one of its own has relevance today as families welcome home a new generation of veterans.”