Did He… or Didn’t He?

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien

I still don’t know how it ends. I’ve read this book 4 times now, and I continue to marvel at O’Brien’s mastery of the art of telling a story – and at my ability to change my mind about what actually happens to the main characters at the end of the story! Each time I’ve read the book, I’ve come to a different conclusion. Politician John Wade and his wife Kathy have retreated to northern Minnesota, following a major electoral defeat. And while they’re on vacation, they both vanish. The novel is a combination of the story of the days leading up to their disappearance, and chapters that contain little blurbs: quotes from friends and colleagues; excerpts from books about politics, Vietnam War, and magic; and excerpts from the transcript of an inquiry into a My Lai-like massacre in which John Wade had participated during the war. Remarkable, disturbing, unforgettable.