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The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow

The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow was recently featured on BookPage's homepage and then reviewed in its February issue.  I enjoy the reviews in BookPage, but month to month it's really hit or miss as far as finding books in the reviews that I'm actually interested in reading.  Before I read this one I looked up Morrow's other books to see if he might have other titles I'd be interested in reading in case I liked The Diviner's Tale.  Unfortunately his other titles' subjects/plots don't really interest me so I may have to wait to see his next one to read another of his books.

Beautifully and lyrically written the tale this novel tells is an unusual one of a modern day diviner.  A diviner or a dowser is a person who uses a rod to guide them in locating water on people's land.  It is a supernatural, mysterious, and dying art that until recently admitted only men to its fraternity.

Cassandra is the fifth generation and first female dowser in her family.  A single mother of twins who makes ends meet by substitute teaching part-time and divining the rest of the time, Cassandra has always secretly regarded herself as a fraud in her archaic chosen profession.  She has also been plagued all her life by visions of the future that her father dubbed 'forevisioning'.  It is a phenomenon Cassandra regards as separate and different from divining and refers to as her 'monster' when the visions come back to plague her at different times in her life while threatening to pull her back into the darkness she suffered in her adolescence.  Between her forevisions and her divining, the residents of her rural town in upstate New York regard Cassandra with a mix of superstition, fear, and skepticism.

One day while divining on an isolated and remote piece of land, Cassandra comes upon a girl hanging from a tree.  Shocked and shaken, when Cassandra returns with the sheriff's department the hanging girl has vanished.  While the woods remain pristine and untouched, they give away no indication of the disturbance that the hanging and subsequent removal of the girl would have left behind.  A search of the woods yields up a frightened, mute, runaway girl and the ensuing investigation and resulting gossip and rumors regarding Cassandra's involvement in the girl's discovery leave her smarting and worrying about her damaged credibility and reputation.  At the end of the school year Cassandra packs up her boys and flees to the family's isolated Maine island retreat.  However, her problems have followed right on her heels to Maine. After Cassandra returns home she decides to handle her problems her way for better or for worse.

While it is clear to the reader that things may not be as they seem and that something sinister awaits Cassandra, these things aren't so clear to Cassandra and her family and friends, all of whom worry that she may be losing her grip on reality.  As the story progresses it becomes clear that the key to the present mystery lies in a possibly shattering, traumatic event buried in Cassandra's past.  One also has to consider that given her background in therapy and the medications prescribed to her in her youth to control her hallucinations and the lastings effects these may have had on Cassandra's mental stability and the reliability of Cassandra's character and narration.  For a good part of this book I was wondering if indeed Cassandra was an unreliable narrator and was crazy--yet Cassandra herself worries about her sanity, so is she really losing her grip on reality or is someone going to an awful lot of trouble to make her think so?

This was highly intriguing read that was hard to put down.  I recommend you pick it up the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


lizzie said…
Thanks for your review. I really like Morrow's work. You might also enjoy his novel Giovanni's Gift - - it's also a literary thriller/mystery with the same lovely nature writing, about a Colorado couple caught up in a frightening mystery that's unfolding in their lives, and their nephew who comes to try to help them solve it. It's sort of built around the myth of Pandora, because all the clues are located in a box of trinkets that belonged to a dead man.

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