A dark, riveting, beautifully written book—by “a brilliant novelist,” according to Richard Bausch—that combines noir and the gothic in a story about two families entwined in their own unhappiness, with, at its heart, a gruesome and unsolved murder
Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone—for how many hours?—in her room across the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at a nearby private college (far too expensive for local kids to attend) teaching art history, and moved his family into a tight-knit, impoverished town that has lately been discovered by wealthy outsiders in search of a rural idyll.
George is of course the immediate suspect—the question of his guilt echoing in a story shot through with secrets both personal and professional. While his parents rescue him from suspicion, a persistent cop is stymied at every turn in proving Clare a heartless murderer. And three teenage brothers (orphaned by tragic circumstances) find themselves entangled in this mystery, not least because the Clares had moved into their childhood home, a once-thriving dairy farm. The pall of death is ongoing, and relentless; behind one crime there are others, and more than twenty years will pass before a hard kind of justice is finally served.
A rich and complex portrait of a psychopath and a marriage, this is also an astute study of the various taints that can scar very different families, and even an entire community. Elizabeth Brundage is an essential talent who has given us a true modern classic.
Brundage's (bestselling author of The Doctor's Wife) searing, intricate novel epitomizes the best of the literary thriller, marrying gripping drama with impeccably crafted prose, characterizations, and imagery. In 1978, Ella and Calvin Hale respond to their farm's failing fortunes by committing suicide. As their sons, Eddy, Cole, and Wade, are taken in by nearby relatives, their farmhouse in upstate Chosen, N.Y., is bought by outsiders. College professor George Clare, his beautiful wife, Catherine, and their toddler, Franny, buy the house and seem picture-perfect, but appearances deceive. George, an expert in Hudson River painter George Inness (an actual figure, whose artistic theories and Swedenborg-influenced philosophy run through the novel) is a dark soul with a young mistress and a violent history; insecure Catherine takes his abuse until the women's movement helps empower her to leave him. Then George appears at a neighbor's door, announcing that he has found Catherine murdered in their bedroom. Though locals blame him, the crime remains unsolved. Seen as cursed and haunted by its dark history, their house sits abandoned until 2004, when Franny, now a surgical resident, re-encounters painful memories and her former babysitter Cole Hale on a trip to empty it. Moving fluidly between viewpoints and time periods, Brundage's complex narrative requires and rewards close attention. Succeeding as murder mystery, ghost tale, family drama, and love story, her novel is both tragic and transcendent.
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This is one if the best novels I've read in a long while. Poetic. Brilliant.
This book keeps you on edge from beginning to end. Ghostly undertones and tragic characters.