Friday, January 2, 2009

Review: The Northwood Chronicles

Like a fish your hooked right from the start by Elizabeth Engstrom’s Northwood Chronicles. The title of the book in my opinion is a bit pretentious as it’s a Novel Told In Short Stories. Come on folks lets call a spade a spade it’s a collection of short stories that are all interrelated to each other. After reading the previous two sentences it may be an argument of Tomato/Tamatto so I’ll desist.

In any case in the sleepy little vacation community of Vargas County there are some strange happenings going down. The strangest being the disappearance of the town’s children. They just up and vanish without a trace. Yet despite this fact people choose to stay in this town and many consider the disappearing children to be a tax levied on them for the otherwise quiet and prosperous lives each of them lead. Fair enough.

As the book progresses and more stories are revealed to us the book begins to take on a depth that I wasn’t expecting. The way the author weaves the lives of the townspeople together is just incredibly captivating. It’s great when a character from a previous story makes an appearance in another’s story. This makes the characters seem that much more alive as they each are honest to goodness people going about their lives. Engstrom has completely nailed the small town feel in this novel. The minor feuds and gossip that go on between all the townspeople is spot on and left me nodding my head that this is how small town life really is.

While some of the story didn’t resonate with me as much as others there were no dogs in this collection. Each story was decent and some were excellent. Throughout each short story the author kept the main story arc on the backburner always teasing us with new tidbits about who or what was taking the town’s children. The weight of these disappearances were felt by each and every person in the town. A story arc like this makes the pages fly by as you can’t wait to read the next story as more and more is revealed to you and then…the book’s over.

I was a bit perplexed as the author was building toward a grand finale and then the story just ended with what was a huge COPOUT by the author. Nothing is revealed, no answers, no nothing. While for some novels this whole “leave the readers wondering about the mystery” works it doesn’t for this one. The reader is left both wondering and with an incredibly crappy ending that is just moronic. Not even the village idiot would be satisfied with the ending we get.

No matter how great I thought each of the stories was the incredibly horrible ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I’d still recommend picking this book up but be prepared to be let down by it in the end.


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