THE DIVINER'S TALE by Bradford Morrow


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A committed dowser but reluctant psychic is the winsome protagonist of this sixth novel from Morrow (Ariel’s Crossing, 2002, etc.), which occupies a middle ground between domestic realism and Gothic suspense.

Don’t go to the movies, warned the ominously named Cassandra. But why would a 14-year-old daredevil listen to a kid sister half his age? So Christopher went, and died in a car crash. For Cass, this would be the first of her so-called forevisions, many associated with death, all of them profoundly discomfiting. Dowsing, or divining, is a different matter entirely. Her trustworthy father Nep divines for water; it’s a family tradition, though Cass is the first female with the gift. When we meet her as an adult, she’s a single parent with twin 11-year-old boys, living near her parents in rural upstate New York; she makes her living divining and teaching part-time. What triggers Morrow’s story is her discovery, while dowsing in the woods, of a teenage girl hanging from a tree. She’s vanished by the time the cops arrive, but they do find a disoriented live girl, Laura Bryant, a presumed runaway. Just as pressing as the mystery of the hanged girl is the news that Nep, her anchor, has early-stage Alzheimer’s. She’s not the only one now for whom reality is slippery. Cass lacks the religious faith of her mother, who thinks dowsing is pagan. Morrow does a fine job portraying a family whose love transcends sharply conflicting worldviews, a family sometimes battered by malicious gossip. He is less successful with the suspense strand, which involves too many flashbacks to Cass’s childhood. There’s a boogeyman pursuing her, but who, and what is his connection to Laura Bryant? Morrow’s timing is off. After a laborious buildup, there’s a pell-mell finale; Cass’s nemesis is a sketchily drawn childhood acquaintance. And, oh yes, he’s a serial killer.

A book that’s likely to be best remembered for putting an attractive human face on an esoteric craft.   

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-38263-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2010


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