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THE DIVINER'S TALE
By Bradford Morrow
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011 ($26.00)
Reviewed by Katherine Petersen
While dowsing a new client's land for water, Cassandra Brooks sees a girl hanging in a tree, obviously dead. But when she comes back with the police, including her friend, Niles, the sheriff -- no sign of the girl remains, bringing her credibility into question. Cassandra has had visions or premonitions since age seven when she told her older brother, Christopher, not to go to the movies. He laughed at her, but he, his friend and his friend's father all died that night. These "forevisions" as she calls them, have always haunted Cassandra: an ability to see the future yet no chance to do anything about it.
She and Niles return one more time to the forest, and while they don't find the hanging girl, they do find a live girl who'd been living in a shack in the woods. Did this girl have something to do with Cassandra's vision? Was it someone else or was it a figment of her imagination? These questions send Cassandra on a journey to investigate the girl as well as hidden secrets from her past.
Bradford Morrow has written a beautiful novel that bridges multiple genres while not fitting easily into any of them. It's best described -- if one must -- as a mainstream fiction work that has elements of mystery and the paranormal. Although billed as a mystery, it's more a story of self-discovery where the whodunit is the least important of the pieces. Morrow's prose is lyrical -- as meandering as the story itself with vivid descriptions of the landscapes in which Cassandra dowses, the art of divining and Cassandra herself and her relationships with those around her: primarily her two twin sons, her ailing father, and disapproving mother. Niles too plays a pivotal role as do people from her past as she explores the events that shaped her into whom she is and who she should be.
Morrow has done his research on divining and weaves history, elements of the art itself and its tools into the story in such a way that one learns without losing track of the storyline. Although THE DIVINER'S TALE isn't a mystery per se, the story contains many twists and turns to keep the reader's interest. But readers expecting an action-packed, fast-paced tale will be disappointed. THE DIVINER'S TALE moves at a more methodical pace, taking a more wandering path to its conclusion, somewhat like the path a diviner walks to find water. It's best this way though as it gives the reader time to get to know and admire Cassandra, savor the tale and appreciate Morrow's talent for prose.
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