Friday, February 11, 2011

WINTER HAVEN by Athol Dickson

"Do not seek the truth, and find no evil."

Is there a more spiritually poignant—or intellectually alluring—tagline than this?

So, why Winter Haven? A few words on the story and the writing.

The Story: Winter Haven is a town on an island of the same name slouching listlessly across the Gulf of Maine. Its inhabitants, isolated by fifty miles of seawater from mainstream reality and unimpeded by centuries of somewhere else's progress, defy such progress and create a reality of their own. And they're fine with that. Until one of them places a phone call.

On the surface, Vera Gamble of Dallas, Texas, is unremarkable. A mousy accountant, her self-imposed life of obscurity comprises work, rented movies, frozen pizza and being taken advantage of. And she's fine with that. Until the phone call comes.

Vera's autistic brother, Siggy, missing for thirteen years, has washed up on Winter Haven's shore. On a rare impulse, Vera slips the comfortable prison of her double-deadbolted apartment and ventures to Winter Haven to claim Siggy's body. Immediately, she meets with her first of many shocks on this island full of mysteries. Like Winter Haven, time and distance play tricks on Siggy—he still appears to be the fifteen-year old boy he was when he ran away from home.

So Vera takes her first faltering steps on the road to discovering the truth about Siggy's demise, the island's secrets, but mostly about herself. A collection of quirky townspeople — oh, has Mr. Dickson captured the small-town Mainer! — propel and impede Vera in her quest. She stumbles awkwardly into a mystifying tale of a vanished Pilgrim colony, around the eerie specter of the woman reputed to be the reason for the Pilgrim's plight, through the dusty rooms of a dilapidated mansion from another era, and into the disturbingly enticing arms of handsome Evan Frost, who may not be who he seems to be...or might be who he seems to be...or who he seems to be might not be what she thinks...well, you get the picture.

Oh, and Vera has a few issues of her own, secrets she's suppressed since her childhood. The secrets burst back to the surface of her consciousness, unbidden and unwanted—no, deathly feared—and force her to face the reality of who she is. For Vera, too, has a 'handicap' to deal with, a malady that may just hold the key to her own sanity—just as Siggy's held the key to his.

The Writing: Athol Dickson. 'Nuff said.

Winter Haven is the suspense reader's dream. But it's more than that. Look back up at the tagline. Uh huh, you'll get much more out of it than you expect. If ya pass up this chance for a wicked good read, it'll be yer own fault, ayuh.

Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; Reprint edition (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764206567
ISBN-13: 978-0764206566

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