Twisted River – Siobhan MacDonald

I was that customer at Indigo a couple weeks ago when I sent  Matt and Jerrod looking25810336 for a book that I described as “blue” and “used to be on the front table.” Yep. So ridiculous, right, thinking that those descriptors would help them locate a book in a store filled with books. Talk about the proverbial needle in a haystack. Strangely enough, I found it on my own in the mystery section – although the book’s cover is definitely not blue.  (And it might have helped if I’d remembered the keys on the cover.)

Kate and Mannix O’Brien and their children Izzy and Fergus, and Hazel and Oscar Harvey and their children Elliot and Jess, are the central characters in Siobhan MacDonald’s novel Twisted River. We meet them separately, the O’Briens in their house in Limerick, Ireland and the Harveys in their Manhattan apartment. Each family has their own domestic rhythms and  difficulties. For example, Fergus is being bullied at school. Hazel is lying to her children – and herself – about her damaged cheekbone and her eye which “had swollen a mix of red and purple.” Mannix and Oscar each have work-related troubles. Then there’s Mannix’s brother Spike, a nightclub owner who’s mixed up with a local crime family.  When the families’ crises reach a boiling point, the moms take matters into their own hands and arrange a vacation. Using a house swap site they connect and swap houses; the O’Briens head to New York and the Harveys to Limerick, Hazel’s place of birth.

And a family vacation sounds great – except the novel starts with Oscar stuffing the body of a woman into the trunk of a car. (Not a spoiler – the novel’s opening line is “She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.”) From that compelling opening line, the story weaves past and present, revealing secrets and lies.

Twisted River is twisted, all right. It’s really one of those books where things are not entirely as they seem. MacDonald’s layered narrative reveals characters and their motives with slippery-eel finesse. I didn’t feel duped by MacDonald’s  plot as much as I did by the novel’s kind of fallen souffle ending.  But as  far as being a page-turner, yes, I turned the pages.





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