Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Review: "The Glass Forest" by Cynthia Swanson

The Glass Forest Cynthia Swanson
Date Finished: March 7, 2018
Date Published: February 6, 2018
ISBN: 9781508253259
Genre: Mystery
Source: Library
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Mid-century American dramas, books about secrets, novels with complex characters.

Summary:
In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.


Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

My Thoughts:
Cynthia Swanson's first book, The Bookseller, was one that stayed with me long after I finished and one that I frequently recommend to other readers.  So, when I saw that she had a new book out, I put my name on the list for a copy.

This book is similar to her debut in many ways, yet very different.  The reader still spends most of the time in sort of a limbo, not being really sure what to believe.  Here, place and time are not in question, but I didn't know which characters to believe and which ones were harboring secrets. As she showed us in her earlier novel, Swanson knows how to time details and drop hints, which makes all this uncertainty simply delectable. The Glass Forest is not a book that you can easily put down as each chapter draws you deeper and deeper in to the web.

Swanson stays in mid-century in this book, but the timing seems more crucial here.  Silja, one of the three narrators of the novel, is a professional woman and the bread-winner for her family, which was unusual for that time.  It also made her suspect among certain people.  This contrasted with Angie, another narrator who is a young mother, and much more the model of femininity at the time.  The third narrator is Ruby, Silja's teenaged daughter, and very much caught in the middle.

Recently, I've come to accept that the line between mystery and thriller is much thinner than I had realized.  While this book is a mystery (something happened, we need to find out what), it almost feels more like a thriller (something is going to happen, we need to stop it).  I've read books where this sort of crossover just muddles things, but here it works.  I also want to say that I rarely consider how quickly it took me to figure things out when I evaluate a mystery, because I usually figure it out early in the book.  That was not the case here.  There are a few mysteries going on and I did work out "whodunnit" for one, but not until late in the book and not until Swanson drops a pretty clear clue that I believe she meant for any reader to pick up.  As for the other mystery elements...let's just say I didn't see that coming.

I had high expectations going into this novel, and Swanson did not disappoint.  If you are looking for a smart mystery that will keep you guessing, this just may be your book.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.





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