Kellis (The Word That You Heard, 2010, etc.) explores a tight-lipped family’s private pain and guilt in a novel that plays out among small-town gossip in the Upper Peninsula.
Fraternal twins Marcia and Mitch Harrison share the power of “thought transference.” As the last people to see Howard Barstow before he disappeared on homecoming night 35 years ago, they also share a dark secret. Marcia struggles with the memories of the rape inflicted by Howard on that horrible night. She’s also haunted by the child she gave up for adoption, a daughter she calls Daisy. Torn between wanting to know her child and fearing what scars the girl might reveal, Marcia leads a quiet life as a bookstore owner with her loving husband, Evan, and their boisterous boys, Owen and Simon. After Mitch dies in a car accident, Marcia discovers a notebook among his possessions. In random entries listed from October 1975 to August 1976, Mitch tells of his role in what Marcia calls “the tight circle of our secret.” As an added layer, Kellis introduces Daphne Hallorhan, a newly downsized architect looking to solve her own mystery as she searches for her birth parents, Marcia and Howard. Mitch’s allusions to the Rockford Files and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald in nearby Lake Superior bring the Watergate years to life, while the notebook chapters seem more concerned with filling in the gaps left by Marcia’s version of events than trying to expunge the guilt and fear Mitch claims to feel. His observations seem too self-aware, his phrasing too polished, and the specifics a little too convenient to be convincing. His reaction to his sister’s rape makes him less than sympathetic, particularly since the police are never called and charges are never mentioned. The only justice Mitch will accept is vigilantism, and his justification for that borders on psychopathology. The complete story of what happened that night reveals itself in the final pages, but by that point, most readers will find the author’s abrupt, anticlimactic conclusion unrewarding.
Starts off strong but collapses under the morally suspect musings of a dead man.