Twisted Tree
Kent Meyers
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Buy *Twisted Tree* by Kent Meyers online

Twisted Tree
Kent Meyers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
304 pages
September 2009
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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A small-town South Dakota girl is kidnapped in the first chapter of this provocative novel. Haley Jo Zimmerman is snatched by a serial killer because, like Gretel in the fairy tale, she has left a trail of breadcrumbs on an Internet discussion board that caters to a specific disorder: “Her breath contained the stink of willful dying.”

It is Haley Jo’s tragic fate that touches the characters in the novel, the gateway to their own intimate secrets and private shames. As devastated as the windswept prairies of Twisted Tree, South Dakota, Meyer’s characters reveal the depths of human passion, disappointments, and shattered dreams.

There is the grocery clerk who catalogs everyone’s purchases, a stepdaughter who chooses an opportunity for daily revenge over freedom, a young man’s first doomed love, the dark mind of a rancher who dwells happily amid a nest of rattlesnakes and his own family dysfunction, an Indian boy who is always an outsider (“He’d learned to crouch through life”), and a priest who has lost faith in his vocation.

Like an atlas of the human heart, each narrative voice bears some connection to the dead girl, intimate trails intersecting, dividing, circling, a cycle of dreams and expectations come to rest in this bleak place where life is always painful. This story reeks of truth, Meyers plunging into the very soul of Twisted Tree, the soft underbelly of life in a hard land, far from city noises or distractions.

No haven, evil strikes Twisted Tree with Haley Jo’s shocking death but also lives among the innocent, its tangled roots bringing ruination to a family steeped in archaic traditions and chronic lack of affection. One by one, characters are woven into a tapestry of small-town life: marriages that begin with hope but end with a door swinging shut; a blooming romance sundered by shame and a flirtation with death; a truck driver frightened by looming buffalo; a priest who cannot say the words for the dying. There is also redemption.

Twisted Tree evokes a mixture of emotions. It is vast in scale yet intimate in tone, as familiar as the secrets kept in each heart and as troubling as the private shames that define humanity. Time passes, love and grief touching down in Twisted Tree then moving on as if such a place had never been. With Meyers, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the banal touching, and love fleeting. All that remains is the wilderness, the immutability of nature and stories borne on the restless prairie winds.

Click here for Luan Gaines' interview with Twisted Tree author Kent Meyers

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2009

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