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In the Lake of the Woods (1994)

by Tim O'Brien

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2,781755,191 (3.81)114
Fiction. Literature. Thriller. HTML:A politician's past war crimes are revealed in this psychologically haunting novel by the National Book Award??winning author of The Things They Carried.

Vietnam veteran John Wade is running for senate when long-hidden secrets about his involvement in wartime atrocities come to light. But the loss of his political fortunes is only the beginning of John's downfall. A retreat with his wife, Kathy, to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota only exacerbates the tensions rising between them. Then, within days of their arrival, Kathy mysteriously vanishes into the watery wilderness.

When a police search fails to locate her, suspicion falls on the disgraced politician with a violent past. But when John himself disappears, the questions mount??with no answers in sight. In this contemplative thriller, acclaimed author Tim O'Brien examines America's legacy of violence and warfare and its lasting impact both at home and a
… (more)
  1. 10
    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 75 (next | show all)
3.5 stars

As different from “The Things They Carried” as can be.

Vietnam veteran John Wade is running for senate when long-hidden secrets about his involvement in wartime atrocities in Vietnam come to light. He and his wife Kathy retreat to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota to lick their wounds.

Within days of their arrival, Kathy mysteriously vanishes. After their search turns up nothing, police begin to suspect John. But then John himself disappears. The reader knows what happened, even if the police never find out. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Nov 22, 2023 |
This book was disturbing and fascinating, and I just can't get it out of my head. It is presented as
a mystery, but in reality it's a story about the nature of humans and how what we are forced to endure shapes us. It was extremely hard to read. My personal knowledge of North Country Lakes made the scenes of being isolated and lost in a landscape that is unforgiving and difficult to navigate especially harrowing to read. ( )
  CarolHicksCase | Mar 12, 2023 |
I read this for my Yr 11 English class. And I have mixed feelings. Surprisingly I didn't hate it. But I hated the ending. Here's the thing - I hate not knowing. I can't stand ambiguous endings where you're supposed to come to your own conclusions. And this does not tell you one way or another.

It was interesting for the most part. I liked the mystery. I didn't hate the romance. Some of it made me sick. And not knowing if he did it or not made me angry. ( )
  funstm | Dec 1, 2022 |
“The human desire for certainty collides with our love of enigma…Would it help…to issue a reminder that death itself resolves into uncertainty, and that out of such uncertainty arise great temples of tales of salvation?” – Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods

As this book opens in 1986, John Wade, a politician, has suffered a landslide defeat in his bid for the US Senate. He had previously led in the polls, but recent adverse publicity led to his defeat. He has retreated with his wife, Kathy, to a cabin at the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota near the border of Canada. Within 36 hours of arriving at the cabin, Kathy disappears.

The narrative offers different hypotheses of what may have happened to Kathy. It also flashes back to John’s childhood, relationship history, hobbies, Vietnam service, and career in politics. Chapters consisting of evidence are sporadically inserted. Ironically, the evidence chapters do not always lend clarity – they just create more questions. This story is complex and layered. It appears the author is involved, years later, in trying to piece together what happened. Themes include relationships, suppression of horrible memories, appearances versus reality, and the psychological scars of war.

The tone of uncertainty is maintained to a degree I would not have imagined possible. Throughout the story, the reader will question whether or not John was involved in his wife’s disappearance. As a warning, it includes detailed gory descriptions of the war-related carnage against civilians, which is part of John Wade’s past and is integral to the plot. I put aside everything else I was reading to finish this book. I found it fascinating.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
John Wade, the main character, is a Vietnam vet who was present at the Mỹ Lai massacre (a secret he carried until it was revealed and cost him his political office.) This book spends a great deal of time showing how this has affected him: his anger, his PTSD, his inability to communicate, perhaps even to feel real love.
I kept thinking about Frankie Boyle’s quote about American foreign policy while reading this: “Not only will America go to your country and kill all your people, they’ll come back twenty years later and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad.” Or write a book. Some atrocities committed against Vietnamese people are described in this book, but they serve as a backdrop for John Wade’s character development. There is nothing new to learn about the war here, just the same narrative that we always hear in the U.S. about how this war affected American soldiers, while the Vietnamese remain faceless, in the background, serving as extras and victims.
I had originally picked this book up because it is billed as a mystery novel, but it very much isn’t. The mystery, like the Vietnamese people, is just a backdrop.
( )
  odenata | Oct 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
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With thanks to John Sterling, Larry Cooper, Michael Curtis, Les Ramirez, Carol Anhalt, Lori Galzer, Lynn Nesbit, and my loving family. 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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Fiction. Literature. Thriller. HTML:A politician's past war crimes are revealed in this psychologically haunting novel by the National Book Award??winning author of The Things They Carried.

Vietnam veteran John Wade is running for senate when long-hidden secrets about his involvement in wartime atrocities come to light. But the loss of his political fortunes is only the beginning of John's downfall. A retreat with his wife, Kathy, to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota only exacerbates the tensions rising between them. Then, within days of their arrival, Kathy mysteriously vanishes into the watery wilderness.

When a police search fails to locate her, suspicion falls on the disgraced politician with a violent past. But when John himself disappears, the questions mount??with no answers in sight. In this contemplative thriller, acclaimed author Tim O'Brien examines America's legacy of violence and warfare and its lasting impact both at home and a

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