By Laura McHugh
Published by Spiegel & Grau
on August 9, 2016
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds
Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.
Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.
Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.
I can’t remember where or how I heard about this book, but it had been on my TBR for a while, so I ended up choosing it as my pick for one of my book clubs.
In a way, even though this book is a mystery, it felt at times like not much was going on. It was kind of slow paced, but things moved really quickly at the end.
Much of the story centres around memory, and nostalgia: Arden’s thesis, her memories of her last day with her sisters, her eyewitness account that set the course for the investigation into their disappearance, the Arrowood house, even the town itself. Characters in Arden’s hometown seem to be living in the past, or trying to in some way or another. Arden does to, returning to the old house, eating the same food she ate as a child, and sleeping in her old room.
As for the mystery, I liked it, but there’s no definitive solution, which frustrates me. I like reading mysteries with a definitive ending, and this one felt open-ended (although our book club definitely agreed on what happened).
I liked this book overall and am definitely interested in reading more by Laura McHugh. Recommended.
Check out the other reviews from my bookclub: