The Boys In The Trees by Mary Swan

[L]ife wasn’t anything like one of those novels Jenny read … it stumbled along, bouncing off one thing, then another, until it just stopped, nothing wrapped up neatly. He thought of … things that had seemed so important, so full of meaning when he was twenty, or forty, and he thought maybe [life] was like one of Jenny’s books after all. Red herrings and misdirection, all the characters and observations that seemed so central, so significant while the story was unfolding. But then at the end you realized that the crucial thing was really something else. Something buried in a conversation, a description – you realized that all along it had been a different answer, another person glimpsed but passed over, who was the key to everything. Whatever everything was. And if you went back, as Jenny sometimes did, they were there, the clues you’d missed while you were reading, caught up in the need to move forward.

The story stumbles along, bouncing off one thing, then another, until it just stops, nothing wrapped up neatly. All the characters and observations that seemed so central, so significant while the story was unfolding, were red herrings and misdirection. At the end I realized that the crucial thing was really something else. Something buried in a conversation, a description – I realized that all along it had been a different answer, a person glimpsed but passed over, these nuances were the key to everything, to life. And if I read it again it would be better, because there they would be, the clues I’d missed while I was reading, caught up in the need to move forward.

(Another Giller Prize finalist down, one to go for this year.)

 

Summary:

At the turn of the twentieth century, newly arrived to the North American countryside, William, his wife, and two daughters appear the picture of a devoted family. But when accusations of embezzlement spur William to commit an unthinkable crime, those who witnessed this affectionate, attentive father go about his routine of work and family must reconcile action with character. A doctor who cared for the young Lillian searches for clues that might penetrate the mystery of the father’s motivation. Meanwhile Rachel’s teacher grapples with guilt over a moment when fate wove her into a succession of events that will haunt her dreams.

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