08. In the Lake of the Woods

O’Brien’s 1994 novel concerns a rising politician who crashes and burns once revelations of his involvement in My Lai come to the surface. It’s beautifully written, skillfully exploring in language the interior lives of its antihero, a flawed man — both very good and very bad — never fully at ease after the events in Vietnam. Wade, the politician, tries to create a Good life after the war, and almost succeeds until his devastating loss in a run for the Senate. At a cabin in Lake in the Woods, Minnesota, his wife disappears under mysterious circumstances one night, and the book explores what might have happened to her, taking pains to let us know that there were no conclusive findings. Her disappearance among the 1000 Lakes mirrors the shifting opacity of Wade’s own life, as if the horrors of what he did and saw in Vietnam had forever unhooked him from the corporeal. A solid novel.

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