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In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien

In the Lake of the Woods (1994)

by Tim O'Brien

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2,102613,133 (3.8)101
  1. 00
    Dispatches by Michael Herr (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Dispatches was the central source for the film Apocalypse Now. It's non-fiction, but it conveys the hallucinatory horror of the Vietnam War in the same way as O'Brien's novel.
  2. 00
    Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both novels are told in fragments, setting is critical to the tone of each, and finally both deal with the themes of love, guilt, memory, truth, and murder.

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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This novel made me shiver. ( )
  rgustafson | Dec 3, 2016 |
Kind of dull. I dislike books that do not elevate wordcraft more than this. It feels almost journalistic. ( )
  valzi | Sep 7, 2016 |
We can never know anyone else or even ourselves, though to be fair what's one more body when you did the My Lai massacre? ( )
  xicohtli | Jul 20, 2016 |
This novel has haunted me since I finished it over a week ago. The reader really isn't sure about much of anything in 'In the Lake of the Woods' except for the Vietnam passages and the fact that the main character lost an election. The rest almost seems like an extended dream sequence. Nothing is as it seems, or maybe some of it is? I've continued to think about it since closing it out and I assume that's what Mr. O'Brien intended.

The book has a unique structure. The 'evidence' chapters include a bunch of references, citations, quotations, interviews, and other material relevant to the main character's past, his current situation, and speculation about what may have occurred. It's a unique approach that I thought added context to the story line. The writing is superb, the dialogue is great, and the plot is both unusual and compelling. The ending isn't exactly what I expected, but it was a possibility I should have identified.

This was my first encounter with a Tim O'Brien book but won't be my last. He's a wonderful writer and this is a great book. I know he's characterized as a Viet Nam war-focused author, and although the war was certainly a key part of this story there were much bigger themes involved. It was a 'different' book, but I loved it. ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
First, I have no idea how I hadn't heard of this book before a few months ago.

Second, I feel like I stumbled upon the key to a code. I suspect many authors writing today have read this. Even if they have not, they have been influenced by the structure of this novel, the pacing, the subject matter, the blurriness between right & wrong, & between wanting the truth & wanting to forgive. Reading this was like reading Lord of the Flies: once you do that, you see the bones of it in every story that comes after it. (So again, see the first point.)

Third, it's quite serendipitous that I read this immediately after finishing An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. Some of the same sources are cited there as were cited by our unknown narrator here. I was primed for this book in a way I couldn't have predicted or planned. Reading about how our culture of war devastated the Indians was tough; following that by reading how it also devastates our own people is mind-boggling.

Finally, this book is so cleverly layered that I can't really do it justice with a review. My head is still spinning from it all. But let me say this: you know what happened to Kathy. You don't want to believe it, because it's too hard to believe it. It's too hard to believe because you already believe he loves her, & there's plenty of evidence for that. Perhaps there isn't enough evidence to convict him, but you still know it's true. Because it's too hard to believe people could commit an atrocity like the My Lai massacre... But you know that they did. So you know what happened to Kathy. To indulge in any other fantasy that denies that truth, no matter how tempting O'Brien makes it sound, is ultimately to deny the truths of our country's violent past. That's something that happens every day, by good honest citizens. Yet I think O'Brien is asking us to wake up. Like John calls out to Kathy as he treks north, alone & despondent, O'Brien is calling out to his readers. Listen up.

So very well done, Mr. O'Brien. Every page was a pleasure. I hope they're teaching this in school everywhere - it is stunning on every level. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
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With thanks to John Sterling, Larry Cooper, Michael Curtis, Les Ramirez, Carol Anhalt, Lori Galzer, Lynn Nesbit, and my loving familoy. Sam Lawrence, who died in January 1994, was my publisher, advocate, and friend for more than two decades. I will always happily recall his faith in me.
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In September, after the primary, they rented an old yellow cottage in the timber at the edge of Lake of the Woods.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 061870986X, Paperback)

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. His earliest work on the subject, If I Die in a Combat Zone, was an intensely personal memoir of his own tour of duty; his books since then have featured many of the same elements of fear, boredom, and moral ambiguity but in a fictional setting. 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--a mélange that lends the novel an eerie sense of verisimilitude. If Kathy's disappearance is at the heart of this work, then John's involvement in a My Lai-type massacre in Vietnam is its core, and O'Brien uses it to demonstrate how wars don't necessarily end when governments say they do. In the Lake of the Woods may not be true, but it feels true--and for Tim O'Brien, that's true enough. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:07 -0400)

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After John and Kathy realize that their marriage has been built on deception, Kathy mysteriously disappears in the Minnesota north woods.

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