Roland's Reviews > In the Lake of the Woods

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien
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Nov 10, 11

Read in November, 2011

In one respect, at the core of In the Lake of the Woods is an unsolved mystery behind a woman’s disappearance. But also of great focus are the demons lurking within her husband, the politician John Wade whose Vietnam past returns to derail his campaign unexpectedly.

Wade was a child magician who, as a soldier, was nicknamed “sorcerer” and prided himself in making things “disappear.” His involvement in his wife’s disappearance remains an open-ended question by book’s end, but the war incident he tried to hide away forever, when discovered, makes others wonder how well they really knew him—if at all—raising such thoughts from his campaign manager on down to his wife.

The novel is ambitious. It’s told in a variety of narrative forms including hypotheses, testimonies, and evidentiary detail. While, for me, the political aspects of the story fell flat, the military scenes and recollections, as expected, were exceedingly powerful. The central characters of O’Brien’s novel aren’t particularly likeable but there’s a psychological component behind their actions that’s always intriguing. In the Lake of the Woods is an impactful work that isn’t easily forgotten.

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