Tuesday, October 6, 2009

From the Favorites: Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods

While I’m away from blogging, I’m sharing some of my favorite books from my bookshelf of “signed books.”

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien came up in conversation recently, and I was reminded of how much I admired it, though it’s not his best known work. It’s about a politician who’s been defeated in a senate election, and then one day his wife mysteriously vanishes from their lake house. Secrets abound.

“As a kind of game they would sometimes make up lists of romantic places to travel.

“'Verona,” Kathy would say, “I’d love to spend a few days in Verona.” And then for a long while they would talk about Verona, the things they would see and do, trying to make it real in their minds. All around them, the fog moved in low and fat off the lake, and their voices would seem to flow away for a time and then return to them from somewhere in the woods beyond the porch. It was an echo, partly. But inside the echo there was also a voice not quite their own—like a whisper, or a nearby breathing, something feathery and alive. They would stop to listen, except the sound was never there when listened for. It mixed with the night. There were rustlings in the timber, things growing and things rotting. There were night birds. There was the lap of lake against shore.

“And it was then, listening, that they would feel the trapdoor drop open, and they’d be falling into that emptiness where all the dreams used to be.”

Here’s an article that discusses O’Brien’s place in the literature of the Vietnam War.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.