The Thin Place
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his unusual novel is set in Varennes, a town we are told is near the Canadian border. It opens as three elementary school friends (Mees, Lorna and Sunny) come across a man lying on the beach by Black Lake, seemingly dead. A mystic element introduced in the first paragraph continues as strong-willed Mees Kipp (who converses with Jesus on a regular basis) casually fishes for the dead man's spirit, and pulls it back to life. Davis tells us '
He was a man plucked from the jaws of death. A man given a second chance. A man who couldn't stop talking about the kind of man he now was.
he story then hops all over the place, sketching a small town going about its usual business, and introducing a variety of townsfolk (likeable and otherwise). It circles around historical events, and is punctuated by further deaths - and revivals by Mees. There's a canine raid on a chicken coop, a preventable accident at the Crockett Home for the Aged (where I particularly enjoyed acerbic musings on aging and treatment of the aged by 92-year-old, sharp-witted, observant, independent Helen Zeebrugge), and there's even a faltering middle-aged romance involving Helen's son Piet and 50-ish Billie Carpenter.
hese loosely interconnected events are presented from all kinds of points of view - the schoolgirls and various townsfolk, a pack of dogs, cats and even beavers building a dam in the lake - as the author charts the realization (gradually, and with a surprisingly easy acceptance) by a few of what is happening. Davis uses a similar technique to that in Fannie Flagg's
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
by starting many chapters with excerpts from the local paper, police logs, or entries from the diary of Inez Fair, who long ago took children out on the lake in what turned into the 1873
Sunday School Outing Disaster
hough I found
The Thin Place
a bit too rambling and steeped in symbolism for my tastes - and enjoyed the author's
more - I loved her light irony and succinct, cutting characterizations, as in '
Kathy was her usual self, a public conveyance, a bus maybe, doors opening, doors closing, moving briskly from stop to stop.
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