Posted in Book Reviews

In The Lake of the Woods- Book Review

41E95Y1K45L._SS500_Just finished this book and I’m in the usual fog that follows. Gripping and disturbing are often adjectives applied to books. They fit completely in this case.

There are historical references, many of which I remember in real-time. The old understood fact, that society is forgetful, certainly has me reeling. I had also forgotten those events.

Forgetting is necessary in order to carry on after atrocities. But when we forget, do we place understanding in the hands of historians? Then again, there are some things, like the recent tragedy in a Connecticut school, that can never be understood. It will never be known how many people were wounded…scarred forever, and the lack of understanding of such events fester forever in our subconsciousness. Never Solved…Never Resolved…EVER.

So what do we do? We wait. Time doesn’t ever heal anything. It just allows for those scarred individuals to, one day, all turn to dust and, with them, the direct, hurtfulness of the unimaginable.

This book returns us to the time of the Vietnam War through the life of John Wade. It reintroduced atrocities that have yet, in 2013, to become dust. It skillfully asks the question, How can we forget? It produces characters that are directly and indirectly victims of things that they don’t understand. Most of those things, they don’t want to understand but the effects are real enough to destroy their lives. The horrific ripples are toxic and live on and keep destroying as if the horrors faced are living beasts attached by an umbilical to the witnesses.

Tim O’Brien obviously was/is one of those scarred by the war. He makes a case for living beyond personal nightmares, especially when they are the only ones faced in a lifetime. But John Wade has endured a piling on of nightmares. His hauntings intermingle and grow larger and fiercer with every attempt he makes to forget them. Not having answers, as an adult, is troubling. Needing answers, as a child, can leave a person hopelessly lost.

I couldn’t put this down. I was a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. Some might say, the ending asks more questions than it gives answers. I believe this book was about the gray area between what is real and what we cannot understand. It certainly made me feel powerless to ever make things right. Happiness is an illusion after tragedy and the best survivors are merely “magicians”.


I love a well told story. If it makes me laugh, all the better.

6 thoughts on “In The Lake of the Woods- Book Review

  1. I’m always looking for new authors to read, and you got me interested in Mr. O’brian. I like to read each author in chronological order, so it will be a few months before I get to this book. Thanks for the review, Susan!

  2. Thoughtful Susan-You are a philosopher! I bet you would have enjoyed philosophy classes at MCLA -something to think about when you have the freedom from other tasks in your life.

    1. Loved the one that I took with Ali Allmaker…he too often was preoccupied with ghost hunting though and got off of the subject. Thanks!

  3. I’ve read quite a few of O’Brien’s work, although I am ashamed to say that I did not finish _The Things They Carried_ because it was too close to experiences of my close friends as I was in college during these years. Your review has inspired me to return to this book and to look at _In the Lake of the Woods_.

    1. I suspect that_ In The Lake of the Woods_ will be an easier read even though I have not read_The Things They Carried_. The fictional story that he wrapped the Truth in, is well told and buffers the reader from too much information. Thank you for your comment and let me know what you think of this book, please. ~ Susan

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