- Hardcover: 277 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (January 26, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316735043
- ISBN-13: 978-0316735049
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,648,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Thin Place: A Novel Hardcover – January 26, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Davis stretches relationships over centuries and species in this loopy follow-up to her historical, Versailles. When three schoolgirls come upon a seemingly dead neighbor, Mr. Banner, prostrate on the beach, he is revived by the uncanny spiritual powers of one of the girls, Mees Kipp, a strange fatherless waif who is also able to communicate with dogs. The narrative's point-of-view jumps among various characters (including a dog) as Davis explores the teeming, deceitful, hidden lives of the small church-going community and teases out its history via the journal of a late 19th-century schoolmarm who harbors a secret passion. (She perished with her pupils in what has become known as the Sunday School Outing Disaster; the 1870s tragedy still haunts the town.) Meanwhile, in the Crockett Home for the Aged, sharp-witted Helen Zeebrugge, at 92, simmers at the stupidity and condescension of her caretakers; her only son, Piet, in his vigorous 60s, is looking for wife number five and is tired of dating the athletic French teacher at the high school. With her eye on Piet, 50-ish divorcée Billie Carpenter, new to town and unattached, possesses the clarity to grasp the larger supernatural realignment that's taking place in Varennes, as evil (or senseless mortality) is replaced by a life-affirming force: love. (Jan.)
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From The New Yorker
In the opening pages of this brilliant, peculiar book, three small-town girls discover a man's corpse at the edge of a lake, and one of them, Mees Kipp, mysteriously brings him back to life. Davis writes hallucinatory, literate prose, and adopts a cosmic perspective: she is concerned with nothing less than describing the town's every waking moment. The experiences of Mees's dog, trotting through a clearing that smells of porcupine, stand alongside those of a minister's wife reading her morning paper and "confronting whatever form the devil had chosen to assume overnight." In any other book, a magical resurrection would be a central event; for Davis, it's just another moment in a particular place.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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Top customer reviews
That being said, there is an element of the supernatural in this book, but only one element. The whole of the book is based firmly and viscerally in reality. Davis has an extremely keen ability at description and fluid prose, one of the best I've read, and I often found myself delighted by the aptness of her descriptions, putting into words ideas that have fleetingly crossed my mind (like the description of dogs' heads smelling of popcorn).
Other reviewers, and friends of mine that have read the book, have found it confusing, or difficult to stick with. I disagree - although there are many characters, and the prose deviates regularly from the plot (i.e., the daily lives of the town's residents, and how their paths ultimately cross) to describe the thoughts of beavers, moose, lichen, or to meditate on the creation of the world, or to jump back to medieval times to explore events of the Bible - it was easy to form a picture of the place, to differentiate the characters, and to understand the prevailing themes of interconnectedness and transience.
For some, this will be the story of a town and its residents. For others, this will be a religious novel, while others will find it a philosophical journey. Whatever the book is to each reader, I know that it will be unlike anything you have read before, and you will get something out of it, IF you open your mind and let yourself be swept away with the current of the story.
Told from many points of view including those of a dog and a beaver, this book tells the stories of ordinary people going about their lives in a northern U.S. town who have no idea how magical their lives truly are. There are deaths, romances, accidents, church committee meetings, old stories told, porcupines chased, and school operettas performed, while beyond the ordinary daily grind, nature churns on in an alarming fashion (if only we would notice it) and miracles (one character can raise the dead) go by unnoticed in the dash of everyday life.
Quirky and rewarding, I liked it so much I bought it in hardcover.
This book tells the tale of the citizens of Varennes, a little town close to the Canadian border, who are also closely connected by little silver threads of desire, envy, anger, greed, love, lust, and growth. It starts with three girls finding a body on the beach, and one of the girls striving for the miraculous and bringing the man back to life. Over the pages we meet an elderly lady living in a retirement home, her son who jumps from marriage to marriage because he loves women, another woman who restores books, one who ushers in church, a teacher who is putting on a play for his students which brings us back to the girls.
The Thin Place is by no means an easy novel or a quick read. It demands your attention from the first page, and should anything wrestle your focus away for even a moment, you find yourself lost. Partially this is due to Davis' incredible fluid writing style. One might liken it to a stream running over your page, as attention shifts about in a scene much as if a camera would in filming erratically. It's in this fluidity that the beauty of Davis' prose rests. She doesn't ignore the meager nor the less-important, everything gets a voice in her writing; from dogs, to beaver, to lichen to the ice sheets moving over the earth in its great sculpting array.
Much of this reminds me of Whitman and his poetry. As he strove to encompass all around him in his verse, Davis strives to encompass all in her paragraphs. The effect, for both, in enlighting and illuminating. Both highlight the interconnectedness of everything; of how we all live in dangerously tight webs and should not expect to move without effecting all around.
The Thin Place is a great novel. It is demanding, exacting, and noticing all. It is a gentle roller coaster ride in literature that you never quite sure when you'll get off, but when you do, you'll want to get on all over again.
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