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In the Lake of the Woods Paperback – September 1, 2006
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Tim O'Brien has been writing about Vietnam in one way or another ever since he served there as an infantryman in the late 1960s. His earliest work on the subject, If I Die in a Combat Zone, was an intensely personal memoir of his own tour of duty; his books since then have featured many of the same elements of fear, boredom, and moral ambiguity but in a fictional setting. In 1994 O'Brien wrote In the Lake of the Woods, a novel that, while imbued with the troubled spirit of Vietnam, takes place entirely after the war and in the United States. The main character, John Wade, is a man in crisis: after spending years building a successful political career, he finds his future derailed during a bid for the U.S. Senate by revelations about his past as a soldier in Vietnam. The election lost by a landslide, John and his wife, Kathy, retreat to a small cabin on the shores of a Minnesota lake--from which Kathy mysteriously disappears.
Was she murdered? Did she run away? Instead of answering these questions, O'Brien raises even more as he slowly reveals past lives and long-hidden secrets. Included in this third-person narrative are "interviews" with the couple's friends and family as well as footnoted excerpts from a mix of fictionalized newspaper reports on the case and real reports pertaining to historical events--a mélange that lends the novel an eerie sense of verisimilitude. If Kathy's disappearance is at the heart of this work, then John's involvement in a My Lai-type massacre in Vietnam is its core, and O'Brien uses it to demonstrate how wars don't necessarily end when governments say they do. In the Lake of the Woods may not be true, but it feels true--and for Tim O'Brien, that's true enough. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
O'Brien ( Going After Cacciato ; The Things They Carried ) 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 revelation that he was present at a Vietnamese village massacre (read My Lai) and had artfully buried that fact derails his political career overnight, and he flees with his much-loved wife, Kathy, to a remote hideaway in Minnesota's north woods. One morning he awakes, after a night of terrible visions, to find her gone. A huge search fails to locate her, and police suspicion turns on Wade. Then he too disappears. Ever a man who loved tricks and mystery, known to his Army buddies as Sorcerer, has Wade always lived a lie? Did he kill Kathy and put her body in the lake? Did they escape their problems together? O'Brien openly asks the reader such questions, in a series of rhetorical footnotes that amount to an uncomfortable authorial intrusion. An ongoing series of chapters with quotes from My Lai testimony, books on magic, General Custer, military violence and opinions of people in the book about what really happened with John and Kathy goes seriously astray. These 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. 75,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
John Wade is a fascinating character with huge flaws. I'll say nothing else. Easy to read even though the chapters and the author tries to throw you off. As long as you are paying attention, you'll be fine.
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