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In the Lake of the Woodsby Tim O'Brien
Winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction, awarded by the Society of American Historians.
Synopses & Reviews
What happens to a marriage when the darkest secrets of your past find their way into the present?
On a lake deep in Minnesota's north woods, John and Kathy Wade are trying to reassemble their lives. John, a rising political star, has just suffered a devastating electoral defeat. Kathy attempts to comfort her husband, but soon it becomes apparent that something is horribly wrong between them, that they have hidden too much from each other. Then one day Kathy vanishes. Their boat is gone — did she drown or is she lost? Or did she flee, disappearing into a new life? As a massive search gets under way, the possibilities multiply in terrifying directions. Uncovering the truth requires an investigation of Wade's life, and gradually we come to see that he is a sorcerer lost inside his own magic, a Houdini capable of escaping everything but the chains of his darkest secret.
"The story of a terrible fissure in a man's life after decades of deceit...a relentless work full of white heat and dark possibility, marked by the stain of Vietnam and yet spinning in the vortex of the infinte present." The Boston Globe
"At bottom, this is a tale about the moral effects of suppressing a true story, about the abuse of history, and what happens to you when you pretend there is no history." The New York Times Book Review
"O'Brien, winner of a National Book Award for Going After Cacciato (1978), has written his most accessible novel to date....When Kathy disappears without a trace, a massive but fruitless search ensues. Did John murder her or did she simply flee? O'Brien develops several maddeningly plausible explanations, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions in this dark but wonderful novel that should gain him a host of new fans. For fiction collections both large and small." Library Journal
"Tim O'Brien has written two tense, indispensable fictions about Vietnam — Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried — but now his better instincts seem to have deserted. [The present volume] is a pompous, impersonal book, long on authorial shenanigans and short on sympathetic characters. O'Brien devotes several chapters to long lists of 'evidence' — artifacts, statements from friends, quotes from Chekhov and Pynchon — that read like the notes for somebody's doctoral thesis." Jeff Giles, Newsweek
"With [this book], O'Brien manages what he does best, which is to find the boy scout in the foot soldier, and the foot soldier in every reader. No one writes better about the fear and homesickness of a boy adrift amid what he cannot understand, be it combat or love....[O'Brien] remains much better at exploring mystery than at explaining it....Yet if he is no psychologist, he is a masterly evoker of shadowy psychological states. And what remains in the mind from this book is an unsparing depiction of the moral and emotional nightmares of Vietnam, made more upsparing by O'Brien's rigorous refusal to writethem off as the craziness of the moment....[He]looks head-on at those unfashionable old friends, morality and evil." Pico Iyer, Time
"O'Brien has perfected a pellucid style available only to a writer who knows his characters completely. The author himself was in Lieutenant Calley's unit [in My Lai] and has said he had no suspicion that such horrible acts couldbe accomplished by soldiers from small-town America. Without doubt, O'Brien has been walking around inside John Wade's head for years, trying to discover where a man who was at My Lai would have hidden his memories. On a larger scale, the entire nation has hidden away these memories. Which means that stories like this one, as old as war, as current as this year's elections, must be told again and again." Jeff Danziger, The Christian Science Monitor
"O'Brien...is trying desperately to escape from Vietnam — and failing. In this beautifully written, often haunting, but ultimately disappointing book, that conflict continues to drag at the life of John Wade, an upwardly mobile politician and senatorial candidate....[The] faults distract from, but cannot completely offset, the power of O'Brien's narrative, his affinity for abnormal psychological states, his remarkable painting of the hostile autumn solitudes. It seems like a book that needed more work to live up to its best, and perhaps editor Seymour Lawrence's death last winter deprived it of that. If so, a stark pity; but O'Brien remains a terrific writer." Publishers Weekly
"The Best Work of Fiction in 1994" Time
"A risky, ambitious, perceptive, engaging and troubling novel...a major attempt to come to grips with the causes and consequences of the late 20th century's unquenchable thirst for violence, both domestic and foreign." Chicago Tribune
"Serious, gracefully written, and at the same time, as gripping as a thriller." The Wall Street Journal
"O'Brien provides a harrowing glimpse of a maried couple dancing on the precipice of disintegration." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"One of the Best Books of 1994" Booklist Magazine Editors' Choice
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