Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
This latest from Maxwell (Lake People) concerns sisters-in fact, two pairs of sisters from two different eras. The main focus is on contemporary siblings Jane, the quiet younger sister, and older, bolder Henrietta. Jane is content with her books and stories, while teenage Henrietta likes boys, specifically Kaus, and wants more than a life in the New England woods. When new neighbors move to the area, Jane's and Henrietta's paths diverge, and their insular family life fractures completely when Henrietta vanishes. The titular den is both playground and hideaway for the sisters and is all that remains of a house owned by early Scottish settlers who mysteriously disappeared. The novel includes a short section about the settlers during the 19th century, including Elspeth, who left her sister Claire behind in the Old World. VERDICT The narrative connection between the two pairs of sisters is tenuous at best. The parallels between Henrietta and Jane and their older counterparts, wayward Elspeth and stay-at-home Claire, are obvious but not meaningful. Recommended for readers of women's fiction.-Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The disappearance of two women from different times forms the center of Maxwell's affecting latest (after Lake People). Twelve year-old Jane and her 15-year-old sister, Henrietta, spent hours playing in the ruins of a cottage in their family's woods in New Hampshire as children. Their father regularly tells them the legend of the disappearance of the Ross family, who lived in the cabin in the mid-19th century. Henrietta no longer plays with Jane and pursues an intense, secret relationship with Kaus, a local boy. Immature Jane is hurt by this rejection and snoops around to watch them, only half understanding the arguments between her parents and Henrietta. After the family's barn burns down, Jane, worried she may have accidentally caused the fire with a cigarette she was secretly smoking, claims to have seen Kaus running from the building. A few months after Kaus is sent to a juvenile detention center, Henrietta disappears with a briefcase full of money from their neighbor's house. Henrietta's motivations and next decades are intercut with the unexpected story of the disappearance of Elspeth, the mother in the Ross family legend, who tries to save her husband's job by seducing a foreman. Readers will be moved by the conclusion to this exploration of the pressures of women across time, making for a touching novel. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When Jane is 12, her 15-year-old sister, Henrietta, vanishes, but not before their father has told them, as they have grown up, the story of the den, an old, squat house only the foundations of which remain in the New England woods near theirs. A Scottish family named Ross, whose wife and mother is Elspeth, had lived there a century and a half before; like Henrietta, they, too, vanished. What happened to them? A fourth point of view, that of Elspeth's sister Claire, will provide partial answers to a story that, for Jane and Henrietta, has become legend. But what about Henrietta? What has happened to her, and what do the burning of the family barn and the disappearance of a boyfriend named Kaus have to do with her own disappearance? And, finally, what will happen to Jane, whose life is, in part, founded on a misapprehension? Tantalizing answers emerge as the story moves among its several points of view. All three women are survivors, often against great odds, while such considerations as leaving, loss, escape, and, finally, freedom inform their lives. There are parallels to be found in their stories, especially between the lives of Elspeth and Henrietta, and, in every case, a tone and mood that are often melancholy. Maxwell has written a deeply satisfying, haunting work of literary fiction. Driven by characters who are uniformly engaging and beautifully realized, it is not to be missed.--Michael Cart Copyright 2019 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An exploration of loss spanning two centuries from the author of Lake People (2013).Jane is 12 when her older sister, Henrietta, disappears from their New England town. This is sometime around the turn of the millennium and 20 years before Jane begins her tale. In the 1850s, Claire is still living at home with her parents when her older sister, Elspeth, stops sending letters from America. What unites these two narrativesaside from the coincidencesis a building in the woods. In Elspeth's time, it's the house her husband built for her and their children. In Jane's time, it's a ruin and the setting of fables her father tells his two girls. This is an ungainly book, more like two unfinished novels loosely stitched together than a coherent, multifaceted whole. Jane narrates her own story, but she never emerges as a real person. That she remains a shadow of her older sister makes psychological sense, but it makes for a boring character. And Henrietta herself is, in the sections narrated by Jane, little more than a sexually precocious loner and a bit of a jerk. It's hard to see what makes her so fascinating that Jane doesn't seem to have a life of her own even before Henrietta's disappearance rips a hole in everything. And Henrietta remains inscrutable even when she's describing her experiences in her own voice. More than that, the portion of the novel that covers Henrietta's early days on her own is simply incredible. Readers are expected to believe that a 15-year-old girl with no form of identification is able to get two jobs and buy a car. The fact that one of these jobs is as the caretaker of an empty and isolated home is also fantastically convenient. This teen also pays for everything with crisp $100 bills that she clips from uncut sheets herself with scissors; this stolen fortune is another astonishingly lucky break for the runaway. The sections of the book set in the 19th century are slightly more compelling, but, even here, the text reads more like notes toward a novel than a finished work.Odd and unsatisfying. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.