Cover image for In the Lake of the Woods
In the Lake of the Woods
1st Mariner books ed.
Physical Description:
10 books in 1 cloth bag (303 pages ; 21 cm) ; 37 x 46 cm. + 1 reading group guide folder.
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.

A cloth bag containing ten copies of the title and a folder with miscellaneous notes, discussion questions, biographical information, and reading lists to assist book group discussion leaders.
Reading Level:
HL 730 L Lexile
Geographic Term:
When long-hidden secrets about the atrocities he committed in Vietnam come to light, a candidate for the U.S. Senate retreats with his wife to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota. Within days of their arrival, his wife mysteriously vanishes into the watery wilderness.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book club kit KT FICTION OBR 0 1

On Order



This riveting novel of love and mystery from the author of The Things They Carried examines the lasting impact of the twentieth century's legacy of violence and warfare, both at home and abroad. When long-hidden secrets about the atrocities he committed in Vietnam come to light, a candidate for the U.S. Senate retreats with his wife to a lakeside cabin in northern Minnesota. Within days of their arrival, his wife mysteriously vanishes into the watery wilderness.

Author Notes

Tim O'Brien was born on October 1, 1946 in Austin, Minnesota. He graduated from Macalester College in 1968 and was immediately drafted into the U. S. Army, serving from 1969 to 1970 and receiving a Purple Heart.

Three years later, his memoirs of the Vietnam War were published as If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home. Later works include Northern Lights (1975), Going After Cacciato (1978, winner of the National Book Award), and The Things They Carried (1990, winner of the Melcher Book Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

A politician's career is ruined overnight by revelations of his wartime participation in a village massacre in Vietnam while his personal life is undone by the sudden dissappearance of his wife. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

John Wade was a lonely boy who taught himself magic tricks to bring some praise upon himself, to be loved. And in Vietnam, too, he proclaimed himself a "sorcerer"--he wasn't much of a soldier, and perhaps his magic powers would earn him the respect of the other men. Later, he tries to make his involvement at My Lai disappear--first, by falsifying his army records, then by denying, deep inside himself, that he was ever there. He builds his entire life upon deceit. A bright and appealing politician, he climbs steadily through the party ranks until he runs for the U.S. Senate; then his My Lai secret is unearthed and destroys his career. O'Brien's novel opens upon John and his wife, Kathy, in the aftermath of the defeat, trying to make sense of their lives, trying to salvage their marriage. And the novel unfolds as a sort of philosophical mystery--occasioned by Kathy's disappearance and the subsequent search for her in the lake wilderness of northern Minnesota. O'Brien never solves the mystery, instead offering hypotheses of what may have happened, what may yet happen--an ambitious, inventive technique that may prove unsettling to literal-minded readers. But the mystery of Kathy, while it provides suspense, is almost irrelevant, or it's as unknowable as where we go when we die. What O'Brien really offers is a portrait of one man and woman at the most critical juncture of their relationship. It's a dark portrait, taking issue with a stock notion of commercial fiction: that after suffering comes redemption. Maybe not. Maybe there's only oblivion. A beautifully written, haunting novel that evokes lives in deep crisis. ~--John Mort

Kirkus Review

O'Brien proves to be the Oliver Stone of literature, reiterating the same Vietnam stories endlessly without adding any insight. Politician John Wade has just lost an election, and he and his wife, Kathy, have retired to a lakeside cabin to plan their future when she suddenly disappears. O'Brien manages to stretch out this simple premise by sticking in chapters consisting of quotes from various sources (both actual and fictional) that relate to John and Kathy. An unnamed author--an irritating device that recalls the better-handled but still imperfect ``Tim O'Brien'' narrator of The Things They Carried (1990)--also includes lengthy footnotes about his own experiences in Vietnam. While the sections covering John in the third person are dry, these first-person footnotes are unbearable. O'Brien uses a coy tone (it's as though he's constantly whispering ``Ooooh, spooky!''), but there is no suspense: The reader is acquainted with Kathy for only a few pages before her disappearance, so it's impossible to work up any interest in her fate. The same could be said of John, even though he is the focus of the book. Flashbacks and quotes reveal that John was present at the infamous Thuan Yen massacre (for those too thick-headed to understand the connection to My Lai, O'Brien includes numerous real-life references). The symbolism here is beyond cloying. As a child John liked to perform magic tricks, and he was subsequently nicknamed ``Sorcerer'' by his fellow soldiers--he could make things disappear, get it? John has been troubled for some time. He used to spy on Kathy when they were in college, and his father's habit of calling the chubby boy ``Jiggling John'' apparently wounded him. All of this is awkwardly uncovered through a pretentious structure that cannot disguise the fact that there is no story here. Sinks like a stone. (First printing of 75,000; first serial to the Atlantic Monthly and Esquire; author tour)

Library Journal Review

Sure, John and Kathy are having problems with their marriage-they've even retired to a lake far in Minnesota's north woods to patch things up-but that doesn't explain why Kathy suddenly disappears. You'll have to read National Book Award winner O'Brien's latest to find out what happened to her. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.