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KPCW invites members of the Friends of the Park City and Summit County libraries to review novels and non-fiction every month.

April 2024 Book Review | 'North Woods'

"North Woods" by Daniel Mason is KPCW's monthly book review.
Random House
"North Woods" by Daniel Mason is KPCW's monthly book review.

There’s a saying, “If these walls could talk…” Well, they do, in a recent novel about a house from the days of the Pilgrims to the present. Here's this month's KPCW book review of Daniel Mason's, "North Woods."

Set in rural western Massachusetts over several centuries, the novel “North Woods” takes readers on a unique journey through history. The story is focused on a modest yellow house in the woods, and ambles through the lives of its residents over time. The narrative is formatted as a series of short stories by the home’s quirky inhabitants, linked here and there in surprising ways.

Author Daniel Mason develops the distinct voices of the characters, giving depth to their personalities, the times they lived in, their livelihoods, relationships, and language. There are twists and turns to the story, with plenty of secrets, some never revealed to the characters themselves. True to life, some issues and mysteries are resolved, but some not. Mason isn’t bound by the idea that every question requires resolution. The reader is given plenty of space for imagination.

Mason’s style in “North Woods” is reminiscent of his earlier book, “The Piano Tuner” showcasing his ability to create atmospheric tension and evoke lush landscape imagery. Trees provide a constant backdrop, from the house’s apple orchard to the canopy of chestnut and elm trees before the blights wiped them out. While much of “North Woods” is serious, even grim, Mason can also be fanciful and humorous. In one scene, a fraudulent fortune teller actually summons a ghost, much to her shock and that of her skeptical customer.

While the inhabitants come and go, the yellow house in the woods alone bears witness to what occurred there and the evolving natural world around it. If the walls of the yellow house could talk, this book is what they might say.

“North Woods” can be found at our local libraries.