It all looks pretty normal at first. The author takes us around a pleasant community in North Carolina. She directs our attention to lovely homes, pretty lakes, and thick forests. The appearance of things. But were we too busy looking around to notice anything else? How a smile does not quite reach the eyes? Things that are not said?
Our protagonist and her friends are out on a rowdy boat ride. The night ends with one of them missing. How long did it take for the women to notice? This is not just a mystery about what happened that night. It’s about what happened to Laine and to the other women who were on the boat—all of them not paying attention. And while they were not paying attention, their lives fell apart. We see how things unravel from the inside out despite outward presentations. And how the other ladies each deal with the shift in their own normal, or what they thought was normal, mundane lives.
I would like to have been taken deeper into Laine’s character, perhaps by a clearer and stronger use of point of view. Not just that she heard what someone said, but how did she hear, how did she respond. I wanted to go from looking down upon the characters to inside their heads and hearts. I also wanted to hear different rhythms of dialect and conversation. Despite a lot of telling and not enough showing through character dialog and behavior, we still get the sense that Laine’s marriage and her settled way of life is about to get more attention than she had anticipated.
In the end, Laine must figure out if she should clear the path in the forest “full of raised roots, loose stones, tangled thorny vines…” or step back and let the obstructions grow unattended to block any possible way forward.
It’s a good story that will remind us to look around and pay closer attention to what we usually miss during our busy days.
Author of “The Wooded Path”
Nancy LiPetri lives on Lake Norman, North Carolina, the setting of The Wooded Path. Originally from landlocked Iowa, she has enjoyed living on both coasts as well as in her husband’s native Chicago, taking her family and copywriting career with her and gathering inspiration for her fiction along the way.