The Cottagers
Marshall N. Klimasewiski
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Buy *The Cottagers* by Marshall N. Klimasewiski online

The Cottagers
Marshall N. Klimasewiski
W.W. Norton
320 pages
June 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Cottagers.

The Cottagers is an unsettling tale of unsuspecting tragedy where a group of people are set on a collision course with chance. Samina, Nicholas, and their three-year-old daughter, Hilda, are renting a cottage on the picaresque edge of East Sooke, an isolated promontory on Vancouver Island, when their friends Laurel and Greg from St. Louis come to stay.

Perhaps a little naïve and also inexperienced, the foursome end up befriending nineteen-year-old neighbor Cyrus Collingwood, a young local who likes to spy on holidaymakers. To Cyrus, these outsiders are nothing more than an annoyance, people who sprout their cosmopolitan ways, and he sees it as only natural to take advantage of them: "it's something so easy and on some level meant to be."

Each morning and each evening, Cyrus goes into the woods beside the cottage where he sees Samina, "the foreign woman," and her little party. Attracted to Samina, her exotic Indian looks almost beckoning him, Cyrus ingratiates himself into the group. Not for a minute do any of them imagine that Cyrus is properly an "atypical looter and marauder."

When Nicholas and Greg go for a walk along the beach and Nicholas fails to return, each person begins to blame the other. Laurel accuses Greg of deserting Nicholas, and Greg and Laurel's sympathy for Samina ends up brightened by intrigue and darkened by suspicion.

For her part, Samina just wants her husband back, even though it crosses her mind that Nicholas might have abandoned her. Meanwhile, Cyrus continually lurks in the gloom of the forest, unable to communicate either his knowledge or his fears to either his father or his violinist girlfriend.

Cyrus is the first to recognize that his mind is its own worst enemy even when he begs it to be sensible, and some days he cannot help but know that his whole life thus far has been a waste – "a drift along the grain, unremarkable and unintended and with what promise for the future… "

Author Marshall Klimasewiski certainly builds an air of menace. Of Nicholas there is no trace despite an investigation of the circumstances by the local British police inspector and his group of teenage Mounties. Of course, this is a rural landscape, so there are few witnesses available per square mile of crime, especially in a damp place where there was always rainfall to wash the any deed away.

In only a matter of days, Samina, Laurel and Greg begin to fall apart – Samina, sealed up, suspicious, and proud as ever, "like a refugee wading through the rubble of her life still wrapped in a fur coat," while Laurel becomes all about suppression and shallow agreeableness, and Greg begins to endlessly pine for a girlfriend back in St. Louis.

As the story unfolds, Klimasewiski progressively reveals his characters' innermost thoughts and insecurities as they spiral through a series events that none of them can control.

These people are imperfect and not particularly likeable, but it is impossible to imagine how they feel, their lives unraveling as the mystery of Nicholas's disappearance is finally revealed, the specter of evil is discovered lurking in the most benign of places.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2006

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