In the Lake of the Woods by author of the bestseller The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien is an eerie book about the sudden disappearance of Kathleen Wade during a camping trip with her husband John Wade. This book focuses more on the psychology of loss suffered by John Wade, as he is the main focus on the novel. This book was a bit complicated to get into, since the author would switch back and forth between John’s childhood, his developing romance with Kathy, their marriage, and ultimately, his failed campaign run for the US Senate.
Due to the suicide of his father when John was only fourteen years old, he suffers from massive abandonment issues and has trouble trusting anyone in his life. Add to that a long stint on the front-lines of the Vietnam War, and John fits the mold of your typical troubled man. When his wife disappears, John comes under suspicion by those near him, the two patrol officers and even Kathy’s sister. The book is written in a unique way, not only with the chronology jumping, but also with the general storyline. O’Brien alternates between chapters of plot, and a chapter of testimonial snippets we can assume are taken from witness interviews and perhaps a court case sometime in the future. O’Brien even includes footnotes in these chapters where he expands on details and provides background information and those quoted in those chapters. Any chapters discussing Kathy’s whereabouts or even her mental state during her disappearance are titles “Hypothesis” so that the reader is aware that things are not as they should be, that Kathy’s disappearance is on many levels not what anyone expects to be. =O’Brien does not seem to point any fingers at an obvious culprit.
Its a gritty book, but its well written, and very emotional. John Wade is a disturbed man trying to make sense of the world he lives in.