“Coyotemusic said: 4.5 stars
O'Brien is really a great writer. This is now my 4th book of his, and for some reason every time I expect some big Vietnam war thing, and every time I pleasantly surprised. He writes about people and relationships, and if those people and relationships are in the context of Vietnam, I suppose it only makes them more beautiful.
This book is very cleverly constructed. It's historical fiction (and in fact won an historical fiction award) about the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, which I'm sort of embarrassed to say I knew nothing about. Though, I was only 5 when it happened, and I generally shy away from all things Vietnam. But this book mostly isn't about that, if that makes any sense. Maybe it's the aftermath of that and the impact on a participant. His relationships. Maybe it's just about a guy who happened to be there at the time.
It's a great book, and I highly recommend it as I do any of O'Brien's work. He's a master of language, and though this wasn't as stunning as The Things They Carried it's a really worthy read.
Raine said: 4 stars
In my opinion, this book really talks about what happened to a generation of boys who were sent to Vietnam. Some of the things seen there changed lives forever. This book entwines a story with some of the happenings of the My Lai massacre.
This story involves John Wade and his wife Kathy. John was running for the US Senate when some of his past secrets came out. This isn't really a mystery, but a grouping of suppositions of what happened after the senate race was lost.
Very good writing and character development. I couldn't understand why Kathy stayed with John (he had some weird behaviors), and the ending pretty much is left up in the air for the reader to decide. I know what I think.
Michelle G said: 5/5 stars
Summary from Amazon:
Tim O'Brien has been writing about Vietnam in one way or another ever since he served there as an infantryman in the late 1960s. In 1994 O'Brien wrote In the Lake of the Woods, a novel that, while imbued with the troubled spirit of Vietnam, takes place entirely after the war and in the United States. The main character, John Wade, is a man in crisis: after spending years building a successful political career, he finds his future derailed during a bid for the U.S. Senate by revelations about his past as a soldier in Vietnam. The election lost by a landslide, John and his wife, Kathy, retreat to a small cabin on the shores of a Minnesota lake--from which Kathy mysteriously disappears.
Was she murdered? Did she run away? Instead of answering these questions, O'Brien raises even more as he slowly reveals past lives and long-hidden secrets. Included in this third-person narrative are "interviews" with the couple's friends and family as well as footnoted excerpts from a mix of fictionalized newspaper reports on the case and real reports pertaining to historical events.
Another fantastic read by O'Brien. Such an incredible storyteller and writer. O'Brien has an innovative way of telling the story ( the unreliable narrator, the news reports, case notes, etc.) and there is so much left for the reader to decide for himself afterward. I mean that in a good way - he doesn't leave you hanging in the bad sense but in the very best sense. Highly recommend. If you read and appreciated The Things They Carried you will not want to miss this one.
Sara W said: 5 Stars + Favorite
All secrets lead to the dark, and beyond the dark there is only maybe.
One of the final and most profound statements made in this thoroughly fascinating book, the above sentence, written by the author as part of a footnote within the story itself, provides a nearly complete summary of In the Lake of the Woods. A mystery without answers, in which mysteries pile up on top of a each other, mysteries that you keep expecting to tumble down like the landslide narrator Jim Wade experiences, yet somehow stay perfectly balanced from page one to page 303.
Jim Wade is a Vietnam Vet, a man full of secrets, a man who loves his wife with an all consuming passion, yet also ambitious, with plans to one day be a US Senator. Yet when crimes he commited as part of Charlie Company during the war come to light, his career is over. There will be no second chances, no next time, so broke and desperate, he and his wife Kathy hole up in a cabin in the northermost extremity of Minnesota, and it is there that she vanishes, without a trace. Did she leave on her on? Did he kill her? Or was it all just a vanishing act, like the magic tricks Wade is so fond of?
I am blown away by this novel. I am not a person for mysteries, but I fell in love with Tim O'Brien's writing after reading The Things They Carried, so I added this one to my list. Yet I delayed in reading it. Could it measure up to a book that has become one of my all-time favorites or would it be a sad disappointment? The answer to that question, is that not only did it live up his other novel, it may have even exceeded it.
There were parts of this book, like The Things They Carried, that were nearly impossible to read. The horror of the Vietnam War is one that makes it so difficult to comprehend on a grand scale, and I didn't even live through it. Yet, O'Brien managed to make the modern day mystery stand up and hold it's own against the nightmares that both he and his character Wade remember throughout the book. I was fascinated by the way that the story was broken up, alternating between Wade's life, his memories of Vietnam, his theories as to what could have happened, and chapters of evidence that included quotes from both characters in the book and from real books and newspaper clippings about people as varied as Custer, Nixon, Freud, and Ambrose Bierce. O'Brien managed to integrate these very different aspects of his story seemlessly, even including footnotes in his own voice, both related to the story and to his own time in Vietnam. I can only say that this book has definitely earned itself a permenant place both on my bookshelf and in my heart.”