Title: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson
Genre: Historical (60s), Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.
In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.
When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.
Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.
Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.
The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson is a gripping mystery about a missing woman and the suicide death of her husband.
In 1960, twenty-one year old Angie Glass is deliriously happy with her husband, Paul, and their baby son P.J. Trouble arrives with a phone call from Paul’s seventeen year old niece Ruby who informs her undle of her father’s (Paul’s brother Henry)apparent suicide and her mother, Silja’s, disappearance. Angie insists on accompanying Paul to Ruby’s home in Stonekill, New York to plan Henry’s funeral and settle his affairs. Angie quickly discover all is not as it appears with Ruby, Silja and Henry but she is woefully unprepared for the information she uncovers about Paul.
Angie is a bit naive but that is most likely a result of her sheltered life in Door County, WI. She and Paul married quite soon after they began their romance and she takes care of P.J. while Paul works as a bartender to supplement the income he earns selling his landscapes to tourists. Angie does not know much about Henry or his family since they only briefly met at her and Paul’s hastily arranged wedding. Not much older than Ruby, Angie wants nothing more than to take care of her suddenly parentless niece.
Ruby is a resourceful young woman who keeps to herself after her aunt and uncle’s arrival. Unexpectedly composed considering she discovered her father’s lifeless body, she is no help to police as they try to figure out where Silja has disappeared to nor can she provide a reason why her mother might have run away. Ruby has no friends her age but she does have a friendship with a mysterious man she meets in the forest behind the family home.
Silja is only seen in flashbacks that detail her first meeting with Henry in 1942 and her life following their marriage. Falling in love at first sight, their whirlwind romance culminates in a sudden wedding right before he ships out for Europe during World War II. She gives birth to Ruby while he is still fighting in the war and she impatiently awaits his return. However, the Henry who comes home is not the same man she wed and their marriage becomes more and more strained over the years.
Angie’s tranquil life slowly unravels before she, Paul and Ruby leave Stonekill. The police are suddenly not certain Henry’s death was a suicide and even more perplexing is Silja’s whereabouts. Whispers and rumors from the small town slowly make their way to Angie and as she tries to separate fact from fiction, she learns some very troubling information about the family she has married into. After she begins searching for the truth, Angie unearths shocking secrets that turn her world upside down.
The Glass Forest is an intricately-plotted novel with a clever storyline and a chilling cast of characters. Angie is a little too trusting and lacks much experience with the world outside her small town, but she is quick to realize something is not quite right with Ruby, Henry and eventually, Paul. Ruby is somewhat precocious but she is also very pragmatic and does not hesitate to do what she believes needs to be done. The setting is eerie and adds to the overall disquiet that permeates the unfolding story. Cynthia Swanson slowly builds the tension as the novel steadily wends its way to an absolutely stunning conclusion.