Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman

Artfully imagined, intricately detailed, eerily poignant: these are the outstanding features of Carol Goodman’s literary thrillers. She is part novelist, part craftsman—and The Drowning Tree is her newest masterpiece. Juno McKay intended to avoid the nearby campus of her alma mater during her fifteenth reunion weekend, but she just can’t turn down the chance to see her longtime friend, Christine Webb, speak at the Penrose College library. Though Juno cringes at the inevitable talk of the pregnancy that kept her from graduating, and of her husband, Neil Buchwald, who ended up in a mental hospital only two years after their wedding, Juno endures the gossip for her friend’s sake. Christine’s lecture sends shockwaves through the rapt crowd when she reveals little-known details about the lives of two sisters, Eugenie and Clare—members of the powerful and influential family whose name the college bears. Christine’s revelation throws shadows of betrayal, lust, and insanity onto the family’s distinguished facade. But after the lecture, Christine seems distant, uneasy, and sad. The next day, she disappears. Juno immediately suspects a connection to her friend’s shocking speech. Although painfully reminded of her own experience with Neil’s mental illness, Juno nevertheless peels away the layers of secrets and madness that surround the Penrose dynasty. She fears that Christine discovered something damning about them, perhaps even something worth killing for. And Juno is determined to find it—for herself, for her friend, and for her long-lost husband. From the Hardcover edition.

My review: 2 stars
About a woman whose husband tries to kill her and their young daughter, causing him to eventually becoming a long-term patient at the local insane asylum. Her best friend ends up dead in a weird underground garden. The cop is nice, but I wonder why he owns a tuxedo. The nearby and the president of the college is hiding something. The doctor of the insane asylum seems ... well, not quite on the up-and-up.

Sounds like a pretty good basis, yes? Yes, and that's the reason I bought it. However, the author kept me just enough engaged to not put this one down, invoking the 100-page rule. Perhaps there were too many stories going here and they all kind of fizzled. You know, you can't do too many things at one time well. I guess that applies to writing, too.

The most tiring aspect of this novel was the prolific use of stained glass-making techniques, art-inspiration and mythological romances. I supposed that, since the book is titled from one of these works of art, it should be used, but I found it very cumbersome, confusing and distracting. It was almost like i was trying to read in quicksand. Not recommended unless you are (or were) a college art major.

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