Reviews of In the Lake of the Woods (1994)
Review by michael a draper (2011-08-15)
It's not that long ago that events surrounding the massacre of My Lai reverbrated in the minds of Americans. The men of Charlie Company were sent on a search and destroy mission which got out of control with the resulting deaths of approximately 300 civilians who apparently were unarmed.
"In the Lake of the Woods," tells of John and Kathy Wade, who are together at that lake in Minnesota, on the U.S. Canadian border.
They are taking time together to try to figure out what John would do after John's landslide loss in a political campaign. He had been a rising star, politically, being lieutenant governor at age thirty-seven. From this lofty success, he doesn't know how he'll deal with the end of his dreams.
The author describes John and Kathy's early life at the University of Minnesota, the letters back and forth from Vietnam and their marriage after John's return from the war.
They are at the cabin which was offered to them by a friend. At first, things seem normal. However, John awakens one morning after a possible blackout and Kathy has disappeared. John cannot remember what might have caused this.
What is interesting is that the author offers different hypothesis. Did Kathy run off? Did John kill her and hide the body? Did she have an accident on the lake?
With Tim O'Brien's journalistic manner of writing, he describes John's actions while stationed in Vietnam as a member of Charlie Company. The story is filled with quoted statements from other participants in the massacre. Then, we wonder what is the psychological effect of these actions on John.
John's character is well described as is the setting and historical happenings in Vietnam. Perhaps John was an extreme example of Post Tramatic Stress Syndrome which not only caused the downfall of a politician on the rise but to whatever happened between John and his wife.