After his estranged wife disappears, a husband returns to the remote lake house where their young daughter died, and he soon loses his grip on reality.
Paul Luden has been haunted by a memory he can't recall. Whatever happened to his marriage, to his two-year-old daughter, is too traumatic to remember, so his unconscious has chosen to block out key details. But when he receives a phone call from the small lake town where they'd lived, telling him that no one had seen or heard from his wife in ten days, he knows what he has to do.
He and his nineteen-year-old girlfriend drive from L.A. to Washington State where he's forced to confront his past. And as he pieces together his buried memories, Paul unravels mentally, falls into self-destructive trances and ultimately discovers the truth about his wife.
Goldberg's second novel (after 2000's Fake Liar Cheat) comes within a spit-and-a-holler of success but, alas, it's short on spit and overlong on holler. The tale could be glibly described as Hitchcockian, but it has more of the feel and texture of a European film one that takes its audience from obscurity to obfuscation without apology and closes with an abiding chill. Thankfully, unlike a European film, the author makes everything clear by the end. Paul Luden, a professor of anthropology, and his adoring wife, Molly, had a child they worshipped. They bought a cabin on Granite Lake in Washington state and were prepared to live a bucolic existence. But a serpent in their Eden first killed their daughter, then drove them to the brink of madness. Both feeling responsible for their daughter's death, they separated. Later, Paul is back on his feet and is dating a 19-year-old student, Ginny, who, like his estranged wife, loves him enough to make him crazy. When he receives a call from a friend that Molly has disappeared from their place at the lake, he returns to the cabin and to a blizzard of bad memories about the death of their child and the breakup of their marriage. The reader, like Paul, soon wonders if Paul has actually killed Molly in the midst of some kind of fugue fit. While this is engrossing and atmospheric stuff, it is too painfully drawn out. That said, Goldberg shows plenty of promise and may yet become a leading suspense writer. Agent, Jennie Dunham. (May 20) FYI: The author's first novel, Fake Liar Cheat, was optioned by Miramax. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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October 15, 2012
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