Twisted Tree

Kent Meyers achieved regional celebrity with The Witness of Combines (1998), a collection of essays about growing up in the rural Midwest.  With his novel The Work of Wolves (2004), set in South Dakota, he won some national acclaim.  In his new novel, Twisted Tree, Meyers returns to depict South Dakotans in and around the tiny fictional town of the same name.  The novel revolves around Hayley Jo Zimmerman, a teenage girl kidnapped by the I-90 Killer.  Despite this sensationalistic newspaper-like epithet, Twisted Tree is hardly a thriller.  Rather it is a sociological portrait, brilliant at times, of the killer, the residents of Twisted Tree, a Colorado truck driver, and others who have encountered Hayley Jo.  Told from several points of view, the story structure is reminiscent of the multiple viewpoints in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, often revealing character through stream of consciousness.


The kidnapper, Alexander Stouton, is a fat, demonic psychopath.  Elise, the middle-aged grocery checker, who at 16 was a lay missionary in South America, tells us something of Hayley Jo.  "She had an air of reverence and distance.  I saw myself when I was her age -- that sense of martyrdom and purity, of watching others' needs."  We meet the town's eclectic collection: Sophie, who has returned, after a ten-year absence, to help her mother after her mother's husband has a stroke; Eddie Little Feather, a comical drunk, eventually run over by a truck; the grieving Zimmerman parents; Hayley's friend Laura; a maniac poacher who is never caught in the act; and a sinful former priest.  These characters share a commonality of voice and action with those in Annie Proulx's trilogy of Wyoming Stories.  But the creations in this gripping novel transcend Proulx's often absurd caricatures, as Meyers writes with a Faulknerian sympathy for his characters that is frequently nonexistent in Proulx.  Meyers's westerners would not be out of place in Yoknapatawpha County.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).