There is something deliciously Twin Peaks about Susan Swan’s new novel, The Western Light. Twin Peaks, of course, was the American TV drama of the 1990s, written and produced by that master of menace, David Lynch. The series specialized in a kind of soft evil – the slow revealing of the secret darkness lurking beneath the veneer of innocence – and contained elements of the bizarre, the hyper-real, and the transformative, not to mention a gripping narrative. Susan Swan accomplishes much the same thing in The Western Light.
Hers is an eerily spellbinding tale, a many-layered coming-of-age story that is primarily a study of goodness, “what goodness is” and how “it feels more mysterious than evil.” Like Twin Peaks, The Western Light is set in a small, remote town and is a world unto itself. And, also like the series, a number of well-drawn characters with odd names and obsessions inhabit the town’s edges.
Written as a prequel to Swan’s wildly successful 1999 novel, The Wives of Bath – which became the film Lost and Delirious – the book covers the year before Mouse Bradley, the motherless heroine of both novels, is sent to boarding school.
In this new work, it’s 1959 and Mouse is telling the story of her 12-year-old self living quietly with Morley, her doctor father, in Madoc’s Landing on Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay.
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