A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, September 19, 2016

Arrowood by Laura McHugh- Feature and Review


“This robust, old-fashioned gothic mystery has everything you’re looking for: a creepy old house, a tenant with a secret history, and even a few ghosts. Laura McHugh’s novel sits at the intersection of memory and history, astutely asking whether we carry the past or it carries us.”—Jodi Picoult

A haunting novel from the author of The Weight of Blood about a young woman’s return to her childhood home—and her encounter with the memories and family secrets it holds

Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.

Arden’s return to the town of Keokuk—and the now infamous house that bears her name—is greeted with curiosity. But she is welcomed back by her old neighbor and first love, Ben Ferris, whose family, she slowly learns, knows more about the Arrowoods’ secrets and their small, closed community than she ever realized. With the help of a young amateur investigator, Arden tracks down the man who was the prime suspect in the kidnapping. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.

Arrowood is a powerful and resonant novel that examines the ways in which our lives are shaped by memory. As with her award-winning debut novel, The Weight of Blood, Laura McHugh has written a thrilling novel in which nothing is as it seems, and in which our longing for the past can take hold of the present in insidious and haunting ways.



ArrowoodArrowood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arrowood by Laura McHugh is a 2016 Spiegel & Grau publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Arrowood lives up to the hype as a good old fashioned Gothic mystery!

After Arden’s ne’er do well father dies, she is surprised to learn she has inherited her childhood homeArrowood, located in the town of Keokuk, Iowa. One part of her is excited about inheriting the house, reuniting with her former friends, and getting a fresh start, but she also feels trepidation about facing the memories associated with the house…

When Arden was a child, her twin sisters disappeared and were never found, dead or alive. Now, just as she is returning home, a mystery buff, with his own troubled history,begins writing an article about the twins for his website, and is convinced the prime suspect may be innocent. As Josh gently probes Arden’s memories, the secrets of the past slowly reveal themselves as Arden learns the truth about her parent’s marriage and shocking truth of what really happened to her sisters.

As promised, this story has all the classic elements a good Gothic tale should possess. A big, creepy house, dark family secrets, sinister, untrustworthy characters, and layers of psychological terror and suspense. I love, love. love these kinds of stories. Always have, always will.

My only complaint is the brevity of the book, not only because I didn’t want it to end, but because it did feel rushed at times, which is a no-no in the Gothic genre, which normally employees a slower pace in order to add those delicious atmospheric layers.

So as not to dwell too much on the Gothic elements, this novel also explores the way the mind can play tricks on us, how we can be so sure our memories are right, when in truth we have selective memories, with our hearts sending signals to our brains to protect us from pain, from remembering more than we can digest or cope with. While Arden has very vivid, detailed memories of the day her sisters disappeared, her version of events is challenged, causing her to rethink the past, to dig deeper into her psyche and attempt to keep her mind open to other possibilities. What she finds buried deep in her subconscious mind may be the key to solving the mystery of her sister’s disappearance.

The past collides with the present, revealing the darkest parts of humanity, creating a thick, heavy atmosphere of suspense that had me held me spellbound with an ever increasing sense of foreboding, building the suspense to a fever pitch, whacking with an emotional wallop you will never see coming!

Yep, this is my kind of book. It’s possible the edge and atmosphere may be lost on those unfamiliar with the Gothic tones of the book, but for those who ‘get’ it, this one is a real gem!




Laura McHugh's debut novel, The Weight of Blood, won an International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel and a Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel: Literary Suspense. The Weight of Blood was named a best book of the year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star, and the Sunday Times (UK), and was a GoodReads Choice Awards nominee for Best Mystery and Best Debut. Her second novel, Arrowood, will be published in 2016. 

McHugh lives in Missouri with her husband and children.

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