in the lake of the woods by t o’brien

Tim O’Brien deserves a whole new adjective that synonymously describes his ingenious creativity and brilliant mind.  In the Lake of the Woods was written in 1994 but it remains as one of the most well acknowledged literary classics of its time.  What happens to a marriage when the darkest secrets of your past find their way into the present?  The novel stands at the junction of romance, suspense, political, and historical dimensions.

It is a gripping novel…  So real that I felt that I was listening live to an insider speak of a political scandal.  But it’s beyond politics.  The writing is engaging, graceful and perceptive.  It’s about John Wade who recently lost the primary elections to become Minnesota’s Democratic candidate for the US Senate.  To cope with the political loss, John and his wife, Kate, seclude themselves in a remote cottage near a lake in Minnesota.  And one morning Kate goes missing.  Was she murdered? Did she walk out after uncovering John’s deepest, darkest secret from his past?  John’s memory relapses and fails to recall what happened the previous night.  In the Lake of the Woods sets out for an expedition to trace back and discover what had happened to Kate Wade.  The narration alternates under the chapters of “evidence”, “hypothesis”, and misc subjective labels that describe the history of the Wades.  It’s almost perfectly and logically set up so that the reader can embrace the objective sides of the situation yet fully understand and sympathize subjectively with John Wade.

It was my second time around the book, and still, I am stupefied by how much action O’Brien embodies in such gloomy and psychological plot.  Love does wonders but the book also reminds us to question it.  Why do people love us back? And to what extent do we tolerate for the ones we love?  The book is truly intellectually and emotionally stimulating and a must-read if you haven’t yet.

dee’s recommendation: 4.5/5