North Woods

Random. Sept. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780593597033. $28. F
This remarkable new novel from Mason (The Winter Soldier) is the story of the United States from precolonial times through the present day and beyond, from the perspective of a single house in Western Massachusetts. As the often-tragic tales of its various residents are recounted, Mason employs an array of literary styles and genres, including the Indigenous-abduction narrative, folk ballads, letters, true-crime pulp journalism, insect erotica, and contemporary speculative fiction. Beginning with young lovers running away from their Puritan community, the novel visits (among others) an obsessive apple cultivator and his eccentric twin daughters, a landscape painter whose friendship with a writer blossoms into forbidden love, a phony clairvoyant who for the first time detects real spirits, and a man with schizophrenia who is aware of the ghosts inhabiting the property. Throughout, and especially during times when the house lies vacant, the natural history of the land over time is compellingly portrayed.
VERDICT Although the novel spends varying amounts of time with each successive set of characters, Mason depicts all of their stories with sympathy, sensitivity, and affectionate humor. Epic in scope and ambitious in style, this book succeeds on all counts. Highly recommended.
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